Crows, jackdaws and rooks are protected under the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 and the Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order 1985. This makes it illegal to intentionally take, injure or kill them, or to take, damage or destroy an active nest or its contents. However, the law recognises that in some circumstances control may be necessary. The UK Government issues annually a general licence (for which it is not necessary to apply individually) under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, which allows certain corvids to be killed or taken by ‘authorised persons’, using permitted methods, for the purposes of:


• preventing serious damage to agricultural crops or livestock

• preserving public health/air safety

• conserving wild birds.


The killing can only be done under these specific conditions. An ‘authorised person’ is a landowner or occupier, or someone acting with the landowner’s or occupier’s permission.

Legal control methods involve trapping or shooting. Larsen traps, a type of cage trap, are designed to catch birds alive and unharmed, and it can be baited with food, or with a live decoy crow, jackdaw or rook (providing this decoy is provided with adequate food and water). If you suspect that a Larsen trap has been set illegally to catch birds of prey, please report this

to the police Wildlife Crime Officer. Gun laws state that control by shooting can only be done well away from houses and public roads.


The RSPB is not opposed to legal, site-specific control, nor to the legal use of Larsen traps. The RSPB opposes illegal corvid control, such as poisoning, which has a high risk of accidentally poisoning other birds, including rare birds of prey. Many people wish to control crows and jackdaws in gardens, thinking that they are a threat to small garden birds. Considering that there is no scientific evidence that either species would pose a conservation problem to any species of garden bird, the RSPB believes that the use of general licence in

this context is at best debateable. Where rooks choose to nest in suburban areas or in trees in gardens, people are often intolerant of their presence either because of the noise, or because they have parked a car underneath the nesting trees and it has received the inevitable scattering of droppings.


These situations constitute a nuisance, which is not a legal reason to kill any bird or destroy its active nest. Sometimes a large quantity of droppings may be viewed as a health hazard. It is advisable to obtain the opinion of a public health officer before any action is taken to ensure that the action is lawful. In those situations where there is a genuine problem,

deterrents that prevent the birds from settling to breed in the first place are far preferable to destroying nests. It must be remembered that if challenged, anyone killing birds may have to prove to a court of law that they had acted lawfully. 


This information is from our Crows, jackdaws & rooks Leaflet: