We know about pigeons.. but are sea gulls protected?

Are all bird protected?

We often get asked this and its usually after a bird has started nesting in or on something programme critical. The answer is yes.

Without wanting to jump down the rabbit hole of the Wildlife and Countryside Act, the simple answer is that all wild birds are protected from killing or injuring. More importantly, to the excavator driver with an Oystercatcher nest on his machine, it is also illegal to destroy the nest or eggs.

You don’t often see site operatives going out of their way to kill or injure a wild bird. So the conflict occurs when a bird nests somewhere that is seen as a constraint to the project.

Unfortunately for the project, there is no legal mechanism for nests to be removed once a nest is considered “active”. Fortunately, the “active” period for most of the UK’s bird species is a few months. Once the chicks have fledged the nest can be removed and works can commence. I say fortunately, but we are well aware that a few months delay could be disastrous, so for every project we advise the same as everyone else. Clear suitable nesting habitats outside of the breeding season.


We do understand that this is not always feasible, and it isn’t always a bullet proof option. There are other factors that come in to play, such as stripping topsoil and vegetation during the winter would present its own challenges, and major infrastructure projects are often programmed for 12 months or more. I have also seen Oystercatchers nesting on laydown areas, Swallows nesting in cabins and Sand Martins nesting in work faces, and of course pigeons are known to nest year-round.

In our opinion the best way to manage the risk is to be aware of the risk before it is too late. Identify areas that are programme critical and apply appropriate mitigation measures. Engage with and train site operatives, the more eyes you have looking for a risk the more likely you are to identify it. You could of course engage with environmental consultants like ourselves.

The General License

Before I end, and some people start talking about The General Licence, I will offer my own opinion. The General Licence exists to provide a mechanism to allow destruction of individuals, their eggs and nests of certain species of bird. There are a number of reasons listed in the General Licence, wanting to proceed with your construction project is not one. An individual is still liable to answer should the police feel the General Licence was used inappropriately.

Get in touch with us if you have any further queries or need some advice for a project.

-This article was written by Naturally Compliant Director, Simon Knott.