Birds Directive - species protection
All wild birds are protected
Under the EU Birds Directive all bird species naturally occurring on the European territory of the EU are protected (a list of these species can be found here). This means they must not be deliberately killed, caught or disturbed, and their mating, breeding, feeding and roosting habitats must not be destroyed. The taking and destruction of eggs is prohibited as well as keeping of wild-caught birds.
BirdLife is regularly assessing the conservation status of all wild bird species. The last assessment was done in 2004 at Pan-European and EU level (BirdLife publications Birds in Europe /Birds in the EU). This showed that about half of the EU’s bird species are in unfavourable conservation status.
Special measures for speciesThe species listed in Annex I of the Birds Directive are, according to the Directive, those in danger of extinction, rare, vulnerable to specific changes in their habitat or requiring particular attention for reasons of the specific nature of their habitat. Currently, there are 195 species or sub-species listed on Annex I, many of which are even threatened at global level. The Directive also pays special attention to migratory birds, e.g. when it comes to the designation of Special Protection Areas (SPAs).
To coordinate and prioritise conservation action for the most threatened species, especially those for which the EU has a global responsibility, Species Action Plans are prepared. BirdLife International has an important role in leading and facilitating the development of these plans.
Science shows: the Birds Directive worksScientific evidence shows that bird species listed in Annex I of the Birds Directive are not only doing better, on average, compared to other bird species in the EU, but also that the same species perform better within the EU than in other European countries. This study, based on 15 EU Member States, has been published in Science in August 2007 (read more here or link to the article here).
Regulating the hunting and trading of birds
Art. 7 of the Birds Directive regulates the hunting of birds. Hunting and taking of birds is in principle prohibited in the EU, with the exception of those species that are listed in Annex II of the Directive. But also for these species hunting has to comply with certain rules, for example:
- Hunting must not jeopardize the conservation efforts for these species, and it must comply with the principle of “wise use”
- Member States must prohibit hunting in spring and summer (during the period of return migration to breeding grounds and during the breeding season)
- According to Art.8 Member States must prohibit the use of certain hunting methods (e.g. trapping birds with nets) – these methods are listed in Annex IV of the Directive
- To derogate from these rules very strict conditions have to be fulfilled (Art.9)
In the framework of its Sustainable Hunting Initiative, the European Commission has issued a guidance document on hunting under the Birds Directive. For huntable species that are in unfavourable conservation status the European Commission, together with stakeholders and Member States, prepares specific plans that define priority measures to be taken to return these species to a favourable status.
Bird tradeAccording to Art.6 of the Birds Directive trading of wild birds (alive or dead) is in principle prohibited in the EU, however, some species (listed in the Annex III of the Directive) are exempted from this rule.
In 2005 the EU banned the imports of wild-caught birds from third countries. This move, although primarily done on health grounds, was strongly supported by BirdLife International- while we see also strong nature conservation arguments for such a ban. (Read more here...)
Read also: BirdLife's position statement on the importation of wild birds into the European Union. April 2006 (PDF 90KB)
Protecting species from harmful infrastructuresThroughout Europe, thousands of birds are killed daily on roads, by electric powerlines, by badly placed wind farms and other types of infrastructure. The overall impact of these losses can be huge, especially for the rarer species like Great Bustard Otis tarda, raptors, vultures and geese. In many cases, the numbers of birds killed in such ways can be reduced or even eliminated by careful planning of the location of such infrastructure and by designing and implementing adequate mitigation measures. Recognising the importance of these issues, BirdLife adopted position papers on the impact of electric powerlines and on windfarms.
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