There is concern over new measures that could result in the unmonitored destruction of the nests and eggs of many of Britain’s most popular birds.
Robins, pied wagtails and starlings are among those species that would be subject to the new license, suggested by Natural England as response to growing concerns that they threaten health and safety.
The consultation, which closes today (Monday 19 May 2014), recommends that the birds’ nests should be considered for removal or destruction if they “present a potential hazard”, such as being found in ventilation shafts.
Starlings were removed from the general licences category in 2005 due to concerns about their declining population. However, they now find themselves back on the list despite this year’s Big Garden Birdwatch showing that their numbers have declined by over 80% since 1979.
Natural England state in the consultation that the general licenses will be issued only if, “there are no satisfactory alternatives”.
It goes on to say that the action must be “proportionate to the scale of the problem or need” and “the licensed action will not have an adverse effect on the favourable conservation status of any habitat type or species within its natural range”.
The RSPB has expressed concerns over such steps.
Robin Wynde, Senior Biodiversity Policy Officer, at the RSPB, said, “The number of nesting robins, starlings and pied wagtails prompting legitimate health and safety concerns in any year is very, very small, and we shall be responding to Natural England that it would be disproportionate to change the current licensing system, which should easily cope with genuine problems”.
A spokesman for Natural England said that a general license for a species would only be granted if "the licensed activity poses a low risk to the conservation status of that species".
He also explained that the consultation was seeking "views on whether general licence users should be encouraged or required to provide information on the species and numbers they kill".
Natural England are also “inviting views on the creation of two new Class Licences covering the killing and taking of herring gulls and lesser black-backed gulls for the purposes of preserving public health and public safety, and conservation of flora and fauna (including wild birds)”.
This is the first time that Natural England have reviewed their general licenses since 2008. Then several invasive species including parakeets were placed under licenses that allowed them to be killed.