Birds can be divided into two groups in Ireland; those that are resident all year round, and migrant species who fly south for the winter. In terms of issues of conservation concern affecting these groups, the residents tend to fare better in terms of habitat and food supply but are still subject to unnecessary mortalities in the form of road casualties and illegal hunting. For the migrant birds such as swallows; many return to find previous habitats degraded and/or reduced. As well as contributing to Ireland’s biodiversity; migrant birds form important links in the food chain of Ireland’s native birds of prey and small mammals.

Baby birds: hatchlings are very vulnerable during the first weeks of life from predation. They rely on adequate cover from hedgerows and vegetation to protect them from over exposure to predators and the elements. However, illegal cutting of hedges and habitat destruction have led to inadequate cover of nest sites.
The young of birds of prey have been vulnerable to poisoning due to their higher position on the food chain. As well as this, some are directly targeted due to perceived livestock predation.

Bird Crimes

Under the Wildlife Acts, in line with the EU Birds Directive (2009/147/EC), all wild birds, their nests and eggs are protected (including visiting migrant birds and non-breeding wintering species and “so called” pest species).

Unless authorised to do so under a valid licence/permission/derogation granted by the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht under current legislation it is unlawful to:-

  • Capture, injure or kill a wild bird of any species
  • Wilfully take, remove, destroy, injure or mutilate the eggs or nest of any wild bird
  • Wilfully disturb any wild bird on or near a nest containing eggs or unflown young
  • Take or make photographic, video or other pictures of any wild bird on or near a nest containing eggs or unflown young
  • Hunt any wild bird by means of any trap or net, birdlime or any substance of a like nature, or any poisonous, poisoned or stupefying bait
  • Hunt or disturb for the purpose of hunting any wild bird by means of a mechanically-propelled vehicle, vessel or aircraft while it is being so propelled
  • Hunt wild birds at any time for the purpose of either training gundogs for any field sport or holding gun dog trials
  • Use a wild bird or wild animal which is tethered or secured by braces, confined in a cage or pen or which is maimed or injured for the purpose of hunting any wild bird
  • Use a stuffed or artificial decoy in the form of any bird for the purpose of hunting any wild bird, other than wood pigeon, wild duck and wild geese
  • Use an electrical or other instrument or appliance (including recording apparatus) emitting sound, for the purpose of hunting any wild bird or any wild animal. It is permitted to use manually or orally operated whistles emitting sounds similar to the call of ducks, geese and plover for the purpose of hunting any of those species
  • Possess, sell, keep for sale, purchase for resale or engage in taxidermy in respect of any wild bird, whether alive or dead, or the eggs of a wild bird or any parts, products or derivatives thereof
  • Cut, burn or otherwise destroy any vegetation growing in any hedge or ditch or any vegetation growing on any land not then cultivated during the bird nesting season, i.e. the period beginning on the 1st day of March and ending on the 31st day of August in any year.

Game birds may be hunted under licence and subject to the current Open Seasons Orders…


Wildlife (Wild Birds) (open Seasons) Orders 1979 to 2012 allows wild game birds to be hunted at certain times of the year.

E.g. species including golden plover, mallard and snipe may be killed, throughout the state, from 1st September in each year and ending on 31 January in the year immediately following that year.

Click HERE for the list of species types which may be hunted at certain times of the year under the Open Seasons Order (Birds)


Article 9 of the Birds Directive allows Member States to make derogations from its protective measures in the interests of air safety, public health and safety, to protect flora and fauna and to prevent serious damage to crops, livestock, forests, fisheries and fauna.

The European Communities (Wildlife Act, 1976) (Amendment) Regulations, 1986 – (S.I. No. 254 of 1986) allow specific derogations to be implemented by way of Ministerial Declarations, which are renewed every four months.

E.g. under Air Safety regulations; species including gulls, starlings, lapwing and golden plover may be killed by a landowner on which a threat to air safety is represented by such species.

Hooded crows and magpie may be killed by a landowner where such species are likely to be a threat to public health and vector in the spread of animal disease, to prevent serious damage to livestock, or for the protection of fauna – notably the nests and young of game bird species.

Click HERE for information on the bird species that can be legitimately controlled, and the methods permitted.

The declarations are reviewed annually (end February) Visit the NPWS website for the ‘Consultation Notice on declarations’ if you want to submit your views.


The possession of eggs or the nest of a wild bird is a crime.
Birdwatchers often have ‘insider’ knowledge of nesting birds and therefore have a particular responsibility to be careful with that information. Egg thieves are known to mingle with ‘birders’ looking to pick up information, and follow birding forums and birding websites.
Please do not make it easy for egg thieves by openly discussing or posting information about the location of breeding birds EVEN if the breeding season is over – the thieves will monitor the site for the birds to return the following year.


The trapping, possession and sale of wild birds is a crime.

The keeping, breeding and showing of native finches and other passerines,which are closed-ringed specimens bred in captivity is a common and popular activity among bird fanciers and this activity is not subject to a licence.
Unfortunately finches and other passerines are sometimes taken illegally from the wild by means of traps, nets and birdlime and laundered as captive bred specimens and may be offered for sale at bird markets.

If you see; e.g. a net placed in a ‘suspicious’ site being used to trap wild birds, a lime stick (a stick smeared with birdlime) being used, or a finch/bunting (or similar small passerine) being used as a caged decoy, it is very likely that a crime is being committed and it should be recorded and reported immediately.

Please note that it takes skill and training to remove a bird from a net or a lime stick – please do not attempt to do so unless you are qualified; more damage could inadvertently be done to the bird.


Some of our native and many exotic species of birds are protected by CITES
CITES stands for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of wild fauna and flora. It aims to control international trade in certain species of wild animal and plants where such trade threatens such species with extinction. It is enforced in Ireland through the Wildlife Acts and EU Regulations.

The trade, import/export and possession of LISTED SPECIES of wild fauna and flora is regulated by permits, certificates and licences issued by the National Parks and Wildlife Service.
Birds such as parrots and birds of prey can command high prices in the pet trade, which has led to some species being threatened with extinction in their place of origin.

Recording evidence at the Crime Scene

Assessing whether a criminal offence has taken place may not always be straight forward and other possibilities such as natural deaths, predation and legal hunting should be considered.

If you come across a wildlife crime scene or a dead bird or object that may be related to a wildlife crime, every piece of information is – or might be – important, but it needs to be recorded properly and accurately for the authorities to have a chance of prosecuting an offender.

Reporting a bird crime

To report suspected illegal bird activity contact the National Parks & Wildlife Service
Tel: 01-888 3242 or LoCall 1890 383 000

For a pdf of contact numbers for your local NPWS Conservation Ranger click HERE

If you can’t reach NPWS personnel call An Garda Síochána:

If the crime is in progress or about to happen, or if the offender is still at the scene or has just left call 999 or 112

If the event is finished then either call your local Garda Station (Garda Stations Directory) or the Garda Confidential Telephone Number 1800 666 111

[Although it will assist the NPWS and Gardaí if you provide as much information as possible, you do not have to give your name if you ring to report an incident.]

If the bird is alive and is injured, also, call a wildlife rehabilitator/vet from the contacts page of Irish Wildlife Matters
Irish Wildlife Matters
If you witness any crime involving a bird, also contact Birdwatch Ireland

For more information on reporting and how to follow up on a reported crime click HERE