New general licences to control wild birds have been published by Defra
Commenting on new general licences which come into effect on 1 January 2021, Environment Secretary George Eustice commented: “Jackdaws and rooks will no longer be able to be controlled for conservation purposes because the evidence does not demonstrate that predation has a population-level effect on wild birds.”
However jackdaws and rooks can still be shot in order to protect crops in England, along with feral pigeons, woodpigeons, magpies and crows. Although farmers will have to show that they have tried alternative means of pest control before resorting to shooting, such as using regularly moved scarecrows. They must also prove that the crops are growing.
Liam Bell NGO chairman said to Shooting UK: ‘’It is difficult to understand the reasoning behind rooks and jackdaws being taken off the GL40 conservation licence, when 50% of the moorland keepers who were surveyed this spring had witnessed both species taking the eggs of wild birds. Furthermore, controlling crows and magpies under the same licence is now limited to helping red and amber listed birds, which means you can no longer use it to reduce the predation of the eggs and chicks of wild pheasants and red-legged partridge. ’’ He added that he was ‘’rather dismayed that Defra had made these substantial changes to the general licence without a proper public consultation. ’’
New general licences
George Eustice explained: “We have taken on feedback to help ensure these new licences are fit for purpose, and will continue to work with stakeholders to ensure our licensing process is robust for wildlife and workable for users going forward,” he said.
The new general licences replace the current general licences GL34, GL35 and GL36.
The three new general licences
WML GL40: General licence to kill or take certain species of wild birds to conserve endangered wild birds and flora or fauna. Species covered: carrion crow, jay, magpie, Canada goose, Egyptian goose, monk parakeet, ring-necked parakeet, sacred ibis, Indian house-crow.
WML GL41: To preserve public health or public safety. Species covered: jackdaw, feral pigeon, Canada goose, monk parakeet.
WML GL42: To prevent serious damage to livestock and crops, and prevent the spread of disease. Species covered: carrion crow, jackdaw, magpie, feral pigeon, rook, woodpigeon, Canada Goose, monk parakeet, ring-necked parakeet, Egyptian goose, Indian House crow.
Herring gulls and lesser black-backed gulls have been taken off the general licences but Natural England will consider applications for an individual licence.
Dr Roger Draycott of the GWCT commented: “Although we cautiously welcome these new licences, we are still awaiting detail on how the licensing system will work on EU designated sites and further information on the conditions related to trapping problem bird species. Ensuring that the conditions are workable for practitioners is key for the licensing system to be able to deliver for the many vulnerable bird species that are prone to predation during the nesting season and for the crops and livestock that can suffer serious damage from certain birds. We hope that Defra will clarify these details as soon as possible.”
The finalised licences, with details on protected sites and trapping – will be published later this year.