The EU Birds Directive
The EU Birds Directive (Council Directive 79/409/EEC of 2 April 1979), which came into force in 1979, regulates the protection of wild bird species and their habitats. With this Directive, the EU Member States have committed themselves to the restriction and control of hunting as well as to the establishment and management of bird protection areas. The EU Birds Directive is still the most important legal instrument for the protection of birds in Europe.
In addition to the rules for the protection of habitats, the Directive contains important provisions on hunting. The central points are as follows:
- All wild bird species are protected. They must not be caught, killed or persecuted (with the exception of proper hunting).
- Annex II of the EU Birds Directive lists 82 bird species that may theoretically be hunted. 24 of them are open for shooting everywhere, the remaining 58 have to be reported by the Member States in Brussels which are actually to be hunted in their jurisdiction.
- Traps and nets of any kind are prohibited.
- Hunting during the birds' retreat to their breeding grounds (spring hunting) is not permitted.
- Hunting during the breeding season is prohibited.
- The use of electronic callers is prohibited.
- It is forbidden to collect eggs or damage nesting sites.
- With a few exceptions, birds taken from the wild may not be marketed (i.e. no sale of shot birds in markets, no sale in restaurants). Exceptions are e.g. pheasant, wood pigeon and mallard duck. Wildcought songbirds may not be traded under any circumstances.
Unfortunately, the EU Birds Directive also makes it possible to allow exceptions to these regulations. Some countries exploit this to such an extent that they partially override the Birds Directive.
You can download the text of the directive here: