In Scotland, NatureScot can grant licences to permit the control of wild birds to prevent serious damage to crops, livestock and fisheries. 

Licences can also be issued to permit the control of one species of wild bird to conserve another wild bird species. These are only granted if they are certain that all other options have been exhausted and that there is no other satisfactory solution available to reduce their impact. On their website they have information about non-lethal methods to try.

Some species have forms readily available to download and complete to apply for a specific licence to control them for specific reasons, these are:

  • Geese species other than Greylag geese and Canada geese (these are both covered under general licences 2 and Canada geese are also on general licence 3).
  • Ravens
  • Gulls
  • Fish-eating birds.

The applications require details of the non-lethal methods that have been attempted to control the birds and evidence of the damage that is occurring or is likely to occur.

Further information and the forms can be found to download and complete here.

You can contact NatureScot if you wish to apply for a licence for another bird species in order to:

  • take or kill wild birds, their nests or eggs – including the use of prohibited methods of taking or killing
  • kill wild birds in the course of falconry.

You must remember to contact NatureScot to renew your licence as this does not happen automatically.


There is no application cost or issuing fee.

  • Description of damage
  • Photographic or video evidence of damage
  • Quantified loss, including number of animals and value.

NatureScot state that licensing time varies dependent on the quality of application forms and supporting documents that they receive.

For the control of birds in Scotland, there is no returns form for these licences. Nature Scot ask that you email  licensing@nature.scot with the information as requested on the conditions of your licence. This must be done before requesting a licence renewal.

BASC Scotland office.

In certain specific circumstances the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 provides a defence to killing or taking of a wild bird other than a bird included in Schedule 1, if a person carrying out such actions can show such action was necessary for the purpose of: preserving public health or public or air safety, preventing the spread of disease; or preventing serious damage to livestock, foodstuffs for livestock, crops, vegetables, fruit, growing timber, fisheries or inland waters and that there was no other satisfactory solution.

However, there are some reasons that the defence cannot be relied on. These include if a licence under section 16 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 had not been applied for as soon as reasonably practical or if a licence application has been determined.

As part of the defence you need to have notified the agricultural Minister as soon as possible after taking the action. The current agricultural Minister is Mairi Gougeon MSP

This defence is not available for certain species of birds – see Schedule 1 WCA 1981.

To contact NatureScot regarding licencing licensing@nature.scot or 01463 725364.