However, Natural England?s inclusion and exclusion of certain species has prompted calls for more research.

On December 10th Natural England (NE) launched its long-awaited consultation into proposed changes to the licences that govern the control of pest birds.

The consultation, which was originally promised for the summer and runs until March 13th, is seeking views on a number of proposals, including removing the great black-backed gull and the herring gull from a number of the licences permitting lethal control of the birds.

The consultation goes on to recommend adding Canada geese and Egyptian geese as well as monk and ring-necked parakeets to several licences.

There is also a proposal to allow small numbers of sparrows, robins, starlings and blackbirds to be culled to preserve public health and safety.

According to Natural England, the parakeet and geese species have been added in line with the aims of the Invasive Non-Native Species Framework Strategy for Great Britain, which was launched in May.

The General Licences will be renewed on January 1st with no major revisions being introduced for 2009 ? the proposals under consideration in the consultation are expected to come into effect in 2010.

Launching the review, Natural England?s Dr Tim Hill said the government body is inviting views on a wide range of issues: ?General Licences enable responsible management and exploitation of wildlife without superfluous bureaucracy, but only through a regular review can we ensure they remain fit for purpose. Natural England is here to protect the country?s wildlife and wild spaces, but this needn?t mean tying people up in red tape. The consultation is an important way of helping to ensure this.?

Shooting organisations have welcomed the fact the consultation has been launched before Christmas.