The Birds Directive

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.