The Birds Directive (Directive 2009/147/EC on the conservation of wild birds), first adopted by the Member States in 1979, is the European Union’s oldest piece of nature legislation. The directive provides a comprehensive framework for the protection, management and control of all wild birds naturally occurring in the EU.
The directive instructs Member States to take measures to maintain populations of all bird species naturally occurring in the wild state in the EU (Article 2). Such measures may include the maintenance and/or re-establishment of habitats in order to sustain these bird populations (Article 3).
A subset of bird species have been identified in the directive and listed in Annex I as requiring special conservation measures in relation to their habitats. These species have been listed on account of inter alia: their risk of extinction; vulnerability to specific changes in their habitat; and/or due to their relatively small population size or restricted distribution. Special Protection Areas (SPAs) are to be identified and classified for these Annex I listed species and for regularly occurring migratory species, paying particular attention to the protection of wetlands (Article 4).
Through Article 5 of the directive, provision is made for the establishment of a general scheme of protection for all wild birds and restrictions on the sale and keeping of bird species are outlined in Article 6. The directive also provides a system for the management of the hunting (including falconry) of those bird listed in Annex II. This includes a requirement to ensure that birds are not hunted during the periods of their greatest vulnerability, such as the spring migratory period and during the breeding season (Article 7). Article 8 prohibits the large scale and non-selective means of bird killing in particular those listed in Annex IV. For a prescribed set of reasons Member States may derogate from the provisions of Articles 5 to 8 where there is no other satisfactory solution (Article 9).
Relevant research and work, in particular those set out in Annex 5, is to be encouraged that will support the protection, management and use of wild birds (Article 10). Article 11 sets out the requirement that any introduction of non-native species of birds into the wild will not negatively impact the naturally occurring wildlife of the area.