The Birds Directive seeks to conserve all wild birds in the EU by setting out rules for their protection, management and control. The Directive covers birds, their eggs, nests and habitats.
EU countries must take action to maintain or restore the populations of endangered species to a level, which is in line with ecological, scientific and cultural requirements, while taking into account economic and recreational needs.
Measures must be set in place to preserve, maintain or re-establish a sufficient diversity and area of habitats for all bird species. These measures mainly involve the:
- creation of protected areas
- upkeep and management of habitats inside and outside the protected areas, and
- re-establishment of destroyed biotopes, and the creation of new ones
Special protection areas
EU countries must create special protection areas for threatened species and migratory birds, with conditions favourable to their survival, situated in the birds’ natural area of distribution (i.e. where they naturally occur). Particular attention is paid to wetlands. The special protection areas form part of the Natura 2000 network of protected ecological sites.
This Directive also puts in place general protection for all species of wild birds in the EU. In particular the following are banned:
- deliberate destruction or capture of wild birds
- damage to nests
- taking or keeping eggs
- deliberate disturbance which put conservation at risk, and
- trading or keeping live or dead birds, the hunting of which is banned
Appropriate Assessment of plans and projects
Article 7 of the Habitats Directive extends the scope of its Article 6(2), 6(3) and 6(4) to the Birds Directive. Therefore, any plan or project that is likely to have a significant effect on a special protection area must be subject to appropriate assessment under Article 6(3) of the Habitats Directive. Competent authorities may only agree to a plan or project after having ascertained that it will not have a significant impact on the integrity of a Natura 2000 site.
Some projects that will cause significant negative impact may still be permitted, in the absence of other alternatives, for imperative reasons of overriding public interest (including those of a social or economic nature). Where this arises, EU countries must introduce compensatory measures to ensure the overall coherence of the Natura 2000 network. This procedure is regulated under Article 6(4) of the Habitats Directive.
The Birds Case (C 418/04) Programme of Measures
In 2007, the European Court of Justice found against Ireland in relation to certain matters in the transposition and implementation of the Birds Directive in Ireland.
A Programme of Measures to address the Court’s findings was agreed with the European Commission. Updates on the actions taken by Ireland as provided to the Commission are provided here, along with other relevant documents:
- A review of the SPA network of sites in the Republic of Ireland 2013
- Bird Case Programme of Measures 2015
- Bird Case Programme of Measures 2016
- Bird Case Programme of Measures 2017
- Aquaculture Update June 2019
- General Update December 2019
- Programme of Measures Update February 2022
- A comparison of Ireland’s Special Protection Area and Important Bird Area Networks August 2023