Legal considerations when working with raptors

All wild birds, their nests and eggs are protected throughout Britain and Ireland, so at all times it is important to ensure that every effort is taken to minimise disturbance.  In Scotland this protection is afforded through the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended). It an offence to intentionally or recklessly:

  • kill, injure or take a wild bird
  • take, damage, destroy or interfere with a nest of any wild bird whilst it is in use or being built
  • obstruct or prevent any wild bird from using its nest
  • take or destroy an egg of any wild bird

Some species that are considered rare, threatened or vulnerable are given extra protection.  These species (referred to as Schedule 1 species) are listed on Schedule 1 of the Act and a special license is required to visit their nest sites.  In Scotland the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004 makes it an offence to cause “reckless” disturbance to Schedule 1 birds. It is an offence to intentionally or recklessly:

  • disturb any wild bird listed on Schedule 1 whilst it is building a nest or is in, on, or near a nest containing eggs or young, or whilst lekking
  • disturb the dependent young of any wild bird listed on Schedule 1

Since March 2013, additional protection has been afforded to several raptor species that were already listed on Schedule 1.  White-tailed Eagle and Golden Eagle are listed on Schedule A1 making it an offence to intentionally or recklessly at any time take, damage, destroy or interfere with any nest that they habitually use.  White-tailed Eagle, Golden Eagle, Hen Harrier & Red Kite are listed on Schedule 1A making it an offence to intentionally or recklessly harass them at any time.

In Scotland, Schedule 1 licences for monitoring work are issued by NatureScot. Those intending to ring young later in the season must have an appropriate ringing permit and obtain their Schedule 1 licence from the BTO Ringing Unit.  For more information on obtaining a ringing permit please see here.

In terms of raptors breeding in Scotland, the species which require a Schedule 1 licence are:

European Honey-buzzard
Red Kite
White-tailed Eagle
Marsh Harrier
Hen Harrier
Golden Eagle
Barn Owl
Eurasian Hobby
Peregrine Falcon

Fieldworkers are advised to consult NatureScot’s licensing section before starting work on any of the species on this list as a licence must be granted before any visit to a home range takes place.  For more information on applying for a licence please see here.