Ringers kill that bird!

Subject: BTO: Updated guidance on the release of non-native species – Important: please read


In recent years the Government has been reviewing legislation around non-native species with the aim of limiting their impact on native wildlife. Under the Wildlife & Countryside Act (1981), it is illegal to release any plant or animal into the wild which is not normally resident in, or a regular visitor to, Great Britain, including a subset of established non-native species listed on Schedule 9.

In legal terms, release of a bird caught during ringing activities would qualify as such a release but ringers are granted a specific exemption from this legislation via the organisational licences issued to BTO by the Statutory Nature Conservation Bodies (SNCBs, e.g. Natural England). In recent years, each country has independently reviewed this exemption and made changes to the list of species that can be legally released by ringers.   

On 1 December 2019, a new piece of EU legislation, the Invasive Alien Species (Enforcement and Permitting) Order 2019 (enacting EU Regulation 1143/2014 on Invasive Alien Species) will come into force in England and Wales only, which will further restrict the list of non-native species that can be legally released by ringers. The most widespread species on this list of new exclusions is Egyptian Goose.

To clarify the situation, the text below lists those non-native species that cannot be released after capture during ringing operations and should therefore not be targeted. We appreciate that there is a risk of accidental capture and have asked Defra and the SNCBs for advice on how ringers should react in this situation; unfortunately they have yet to respond so it is recommended that any activities which run the risk of accidentally catching one of these species be suspended until we are able to disseminate this information, which we will hopefully receive in the next week.

List of non-native species which should not be targeted by ringers as they cannot be subsequently released; note, this supersedes the list in the RIN paper RIN:MAR19:ITEM5:

·         England – Egyptian Goose, Ruddy Duck, Sacred Ibis, Indian House Crow.

·         Scotland – Canada Goose, Black Swan, Ruddy Shelduck, Ruddy Duck, Sacred Ibis, Eagle Owl , Monk Parakeet, Ring-necked Parakeet, Indian House Crow.

·         Wales – Egyptian Goose, Ruddy Duck, Sacred Ibis, Indian House Crow.

·         Northern Ireland – Canada Goose, Barnacle Goose, Egyptian Goose, Mandarin Duck, Ruddy Duck, Sacred Ibis, Indian House Crow.

If you have any further questions, please contact the Licensing Manager at ringing.licensing@bto.org

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21 Replies to “Ringers kill that bird!”

  1. Depends on how you look at it - Christmas dinner is rapidly approaching.
    Sadly Wild Turkeys are not on the list.

    1. But should be, as should Pheasant and Red legged Partridge and any of the other half dozen species the game lobby occasionally release illegally.

  2. Cage-bird species are most easily dealt with. Plenty of people of "The Fancy" may accept them. Waterfowl collections might accept birds too, after pinioning, if they have open locations that wild birds visit, so disease risk is not an issue.

    Nb. inexperienced and even experienced ringers can "fumble" a bird on handing, allowing it to inadvertently escape.

  3. As usual, Scotland is way ahead of England in the sensible stakes with a much better more comprehensive list. And I thought Defra were, wisely, trying to eradicate Monk Parakeets so why aren't they on the England list.

    Egyptian Geese will become real pests but, as so often, we will wait until they are a big problem and then there will be public outrage at them being killed in large numbers.

    Gerard - Eagle Owls getting here naturally is wishful thinking by birders wanting to add yet more plastic to their lists.

    1. Eagle Owl may or may not get here on their own. However they are native species in the EU and arguably so here too, given there have been subfossil remains found here. According to the BOU who manage the British List anything that has occurred here in a wild state since the last glaciation should be considered native-- that would undoubtedly include Eagle Owl, Greater Spotted Eagle and Dalmatian Pelican. That EEO is not included is a political not biological decision IMO.

      1. Paul, large numbers of Eagle Owls are kept and bred in captivity here. They do not occur here naturally as breeding birds and the birds we have are derived from escapes and deliberate illegal releases. They are bad news - ask a Long-eared Owl.

        1. There is no doubt about what you say except that the dangers to other raptors and owls have been greatly exaggerated and the argument is also true of Goshawk. However that is not the point, they are hardly invasive as they breed relatively slowly and the sub-fossil evidence of their presence here is irrefutable thus they should be on the British list albeit in category B. Having been involved in two of the UK pairs they seem to be bad news for rats, rabbits, RLPs, Pheasants and Red Grouse ( all but grouse non native) with Peregrine, Hen Harrier, Merlin and Short-eared Owl all breeding successfully with 500m. They are part of European wide ecology so ought to fit here too, most of the claims of why we shouldn't have them is gross distortion of the facts or lies by people who should know better and the grouse/game lobby. By and large they are in very different habitats to LEO anywhere in Europe.

          1. Thanks Paul. Goshawks were exterminated by man. In any such case I am in favour of reintroductions if conditions now are suitable and recolonization does not occur naturally. We are an island, not part of continental Europe. I am not in favour of introducing any non-native stuff here - history is littered with disasters from such acts. The "they ought to fit here too" argument was probably very popular in New Zealand - a long time ago. Deliberate and accidental introductions are a major cause of species extinctions worldwide. It's a typical British birder (and I am one) attitude that it's OK for us to do it here. As for Eagle Owl diet, no doubt you remember the Snowy Owls breeding on Fetlar. I believe they fed very happily on rabbits until the population crashed and they then turned their attention to Whimbrels. So who knows what might happen with Eagle Owls if they became widespread.

  4. All of these "invasive" non-natives that are perceived to cause problems, yet the same government doesn't see any issues with the release of upwards of 50 million non-native birds every year!

    Ah, the stench of hypocrisy!

    I also agree with Gerald. Barnacle Goose (and Canada Goose) in Ireland? Surely this region is capable of attracting wild individuals of these two species?

    And Canada Goose in Scotland? I've seen a few small-race Canada Geese in Scotland, mostly on nature reserves on the Solway, so if ringers catch one during a canon-netting session, they would be required to kill it, even if they have strong beliefs that it is a genuine vagrant!

    Once again, the UK government, the Tories, Natural England, SNH, etc, proving beyond doubt that are not fit for purpose.

  5. Eagle owls are natives. This is the dread hand of the grouse lobby again. Just like the salmon industry, when doing electrofishing "surveys" kill native UK fish because they say they are invasive because salmon anglers don't target them and thus never record them as being present in rivers.

    Ah, fuck 'em. Bad laws were made to be broken.

  6. While people are making good points about this particular blog, the most pressing question I think is this: While unpleasant, the process of ringing a birds neck is seemingly quite straightforward. Even up to bigger things like geese. However, what the hell would you be able to do to an eagle owl without ending up with some pretty gnarly scars! ( I've also heard that those ruddy ducks can be vicious buggers too!)

  7. I understand that there is an example of a Canada goose pair displacing an osprey from it's nest in Tayside.

    In population conservation terms, I guess insignificant, but interesting all the same.

    1. Bimbling - and I see from the latest issue of British Birds that disturbance by Canada Geese may be an issue for Black-throated Divers in Scotland "as noted in Sweden". Meanwhile, Black Swan is a species that it would be easy to eradicate now, but I expect we'll wait until it becomes a real problem.

  8. As a ringer of 46 years experience I will make damned sure that I will not be catching any of these species here in Wales but then the Welsh or English list birds are all very unlikely to be caught by the average ringer.

  9. Canada Geese, Ring Necked Parakeet and Monk Parakeet are on the list of species you are not permitted to release if accidently caught when live trapping shrews... (I wonder if they have issued an update to the list or are just waiting until the licence is re-issued in Jan?). The list of species that you must release immediately upon discovery includes White Tailed Eagle... Imagine going to check your longworth trap and finding a Canada goose or white tailed eagle caught in it!


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