Europe and Central Asia

Species protection and hunting of birds

Hoopoe_Trapped_H. Yorgancı
Trapped Hoopoe © H. Yorgancı

What is the Birds Directive?

The Birds Directive is a European directive adopted as a response to increasing concern about the declines in Europe's wild bird populations resulting from pollution, loss of habitats as well as unsustainable use.

It is the EU’s oldest piece of nature legislation and one of the most important, creating a comprehensive scheme of protection for all wild bird species naturally occurring in the Union, and recoginising that wild birds, many of which are migratory, are a shared heritage of the Member States and that their effective conservation requires international co-operation.

Under the EU Birds Directive all bird species naturally occurring in the territory of the EU are protected. This means they must not be deliberately killed, caught or disturbed.

Their mating, breeding, feeding and roosting habitats must not be destroyed. The taking and destruction of eggs is prohibited as well as keeping of birds caught in the wild. 

BirdLife Europe sees the EU Birds Directive as a good framework to regulate the hunting of birds. The adequate implementation and enforcement of the Directive by Member States and all stakeholders is an essential minimum requirement and important contribution to reach the ultimate aim, which is to make hunting of birds a truly sustainable activity across the European Union.

More on the Birds Directive in the European Commission website.

Sustainable hunting

The bird species that can be hunted in the EU are listed in the Birds Directive’s Annex II. A detailed interpretation of the provisions and reference to case law from the European Court can be found in a Guidance Document produced by the Commission. The document is available in all EU languages at the Commission’s web-page on sustainable hunting.

The main principle set in the Birds Directive for hunting of selected bird species is that any use of wild birds must comply with the principle of wise and ecologically balanced use. This goes in particular for those huntable species that are in unfavourable conservation status. As IUCN Red-List authority BirdLife regularly assesses the conservation status of all bird species.

Our dialogue with the hunting federation FACE

Hunters have an important role to play, not only in ensuring their own activities are sustainable, but also in joining forces with all who work for a better environment rich in wildlife. As a result, in 2001 BirdLife signed an agreement with the European Federation of Associations for Hunting & Conservation (FACE). Read more...

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Stichting BirdLife Europe gratefully acknowledges financial support from the European Commission. All content and opinions expressed on these pages are solely those of Stichting BirdLife Europe. The European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.