Directive 2009/147/EC on the conservation of wild birds (codified version)


The European Union meets its obligations for bird species under the Bern Convention and Bonn Convention and more generally by means of Directive 2009/147/EC (Birds Directive) on the conservation of wild birds (the codified version of Council Directive 79/409/EEC as amended).  The Directive provides a framework for the conservation and management of, and human interactions with, wild birds in Europe. It sets broad objectives for a wide range of activities, although the precise legal mechanisms for their achievement are at the discretion of each Member State (in the UK delivery is via several different statutes). The Directive applies to the UK and to its overseas territory of Gibraltar.


The main provisions of the Directive include:

  • The maintenance of the populations of all wild bird species across their natural range (Article 2) with the encouragement of various activities to that end (Article 3).
  • The identification and classification of Special Protection Areas (SPAs) for rare or vulnerable species listed in Annex I of the Directive, as well as for all regularly occurring migratory species, paying particular attention to the protection of wetlands of international importance (Article 4). (Together with Special Areas of Conservation designated under the Habitats Directive, SPAs form a network of European protected areas known as Natura 2000).
  • The establishment of a general scheme of protection for all wild birds (Article 5).
  • Restrictions on the sale and keeping of wild birds (Article 6).
  • Specification of the conditions under which hunting and falconry can be undertaken (Article 7). (Huntable species are listed on Annex II  of the Directive).
  • Prohibition of large-scale non-selective means of bird killing (Article 8).
  • Procedures under which Member States may derogate from the provisions of Articles 5-8 (Article 9) — that is, the conditions under which permission may be given for otherwise prohibited activities.
  • Encouragement of certain forms of relevant research (Article 10 and Annex V).
  • Requirements to ensure that introduction of non-native birds do not threatened other biodiversity (Article 11).


The Directive has facilitated much co-operative conservation action across the European Union.  Many initiatives have increased understanding of conservation needs, including the development of international action plans for the most threatened species (including – with implications for the UK, bittern, white-headed duck, roseate tern, corncrake, aquatic warbler and Scottish crossbill).  Recent years have seen a major review of the timing of migration and breeding of quarry species listed under Article II of the Directive, EU management plans for huntable bird species in unfavourable status, as well as a guidance on hunting issues


A major conference to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Directive in 2004 agreed important strategic priorities for the implementation of the Directive.


JNCC acts as the technical advisor to Defra regarding the UK's implementation of the Birds Directive, and coordinates relevant actions across the country agencies. A major task was the coordination of the UK's review of Special Protection Areas, published in 2001.


Transposition to UK Legislation


In the UK, the provisions of the Birds Directive are implemented through the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 (as amended), the Conservation (Natural Habitats, & c.) Regulations 2010 (as amended); the Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order 1985; the Nature Conservation and Amenity Lands (Northern Ireland) Order 1985; the Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.) (Northern Ireland) Regulations 1995 (as amended)  the Offshore Marine Conservation (Natural Habitats & c.) Regulations 2007 as well as other legislation related to the uses of land and sea. 


A very wide range of other statutory and non-statutory activities also support the implementation of the Birds Directive in the UK. This includes national bird monitoring schemes, bird conservation research, and the UK Biodiversity Action Plan which involves action for a number of bird species and the habitats which support them.


Catalogue of case law relating to articles of the EU Birds and Habitats Directives


JNCC have produced a Catalogue of case law relating to articles of the EU Birds and Habitats Directives. It provides accessible and summarised information on environmental case law relating to the EU Habitats Directive (Articles 1 to 7 and 9 to 16) and the EU Birds Directive (Articles 1 to 9). The current version (Version 1.0) includes all relevant cases from courts in the UK and the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) up until December 2013 using the Westlaw, Lexis Library, Lawtel and Curia legal databases. The catalogue summarises the relevant cases identified by the search, creating an entry for each case which sets out the key information, facts of the case and eventual outcomes, and is written in a way that users will not need a legal background to draw out the relevant information




October 2014