Buzzard Cull- DEFRA reply to question they received from a Raptor Politics follower.

We received the attached information today from one of our regular followers who had taken the time and troubl to write to Defra to voice concern at the recent cull of four buzzard nests containing eggs. We suspect the reply received is a standard format which Defra has sent to everyone who sent their concerns. The way the second paragraph has been phrased is most interesting, a species success yes, but now this species requires culling. It heart warming that DEFRA don’t intend to use the same logic on us humans!

Sent: Tuesday, 4 June 2013, 13:31
Subject: Buzzard licence decision

Dear Mr xxxxx,
Thank you for your email received on the 24th May 2013   in which you raised concerns  over the recent decision to issue a licence for the removal  of four buzzard nests from a pheasant shoot.
The recovery of the common buzzard population in England is a fantastic conservation success story and we should celebrate the fact that they can regularly be seen soaring above the countryside in most areas of the country.
Most recent authoritative population figures provided by the Avian Population Estimate Panel (APEP) estimate the number of territorial breeding pairs of common buzzard in the UK as between 57,000 and 79,000. This means that at its peak, in late summer, the total population, including non-breeding birds and young of the year, is likely to be about 300,000 birds.
While the available evidence suggests that on average, predation of pheasants by buzzards is low in certain isolated cases buzzards can cause serious problems. In this particular case a small scale shooting enterprise had sustained increased levels of predation by buzzards over a period of several years.
Where there are conflicts between protected species and human interests, Natural England always advocates the least severe measures to resolve problems. On this occasion Natural England provided advice on a wide range of non-lethal methods – including scaring, diversionary feeding and habitat improvements – but despite these measures being used over a number of years, buzzard predation continued.
Owing to the impact of predation on the viability of the shooting enterprise, the shoot submitted a licence application seeking permission to carry out lethal control (shooting) and nest destruction. The application was rigorously assessed in line with Government policy, which permits the management of protected species, including birds of prey, where specified criteria are met. We concluded that the damage being caused was not serious enough to licence lethal control, but did meet the criteria for the less severe option of nest destruction. A licence authorising the removal of a total of four buzzard nests was issued on that basis, with the licence operating over a short time period to reduce the risk of eggs being present. A total of four nests were removed with no evidence that eggs were present at the time of removal. No further control activity has been authorised.
Natural England recognises that some people object to birds of prey being controlled to protect pheasants released for the purposes of shooting.  As the body responsible for issuing licences in England, Natural England is duty bound to operate in accordance with Government policy and the law. The legislation, in this case the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended), allows people to apply for permission to take action against protected species to prevent serious damage to livestock, which includes any ‘animal kept for the provision or improvement of shooting’ (section 27 of the Act). Birds of prey are not afforded any special status under the law and it is Government licensing policy that all applications, whether for birds or prey or more commonly controlled protected species like gulls and corvids, are judged against the same criteria.  Natural England assesses each application objectively on its merits in line with the principle that licences may not be unreasonably withheld. If we receive future applications to destroy buzzard nests then these will be assessed on their merits, as are all licence applications.
While accepting that not everyone will agree with our decision in this case, we are confident that the conservation status of buzzards will not be adversely impacted by the destruction of a small number of nests. Nest destruction was authorised early in the nesting season to deter the buzzards from the area where they are causing problems and give them maximum opportunity to successfully nest elsewhere this year.
If you would like to know more about why we decided to issue the licences please refer licence documents published on our Disclosure Log(i).
While Government policy for species licensing is freely available for the public to scrutinise(ii) members of the public are entitled to expect a reasonable degree of privacy in their use of the licensing system, and it is not current practice to provide an opportunity for third parties to scrutinise licence applications that we receive. A summary of all licences issued is made available on the Natural England website(iii) and we submit details of licences issued under the Birds Directive annually to the European Commission(iv).
Further information, and copies of the licences issued can be found on our website:
(i): Details of licences and assessment in recent cases are available from the disclosure log (see 24 May 2013 entry):
(ii): Government policy for licensing:
(iii): Natural England licence statistics (not yet updated for 2012) are available at: 
(iv): National reports on wild bird licensing are available from the EU at:
Customer Services
Natural England
Our Customer Services Team has been awarded the cutomer service Excellence Standard
We are here to secure a healthy natural environment for people to enjoy, where wildlife is protected and England’s traditional landscapes are safe guarded for future generations.


9 comments to Buzzard Cull- DEFRA reply to question they received from a Raptor Politics follower.

  • skydancer

    Why did natural england not ask the owners of the so called “shooting enterprise” to set up their “enterprise” somewhere else away from the buzzard nests, this also probably answers the question of why the hen harrier has dissappeared from England,has a licence been granted to landowners to remove the hen harrier from the moors to stop it having an effect on livestock as in grouse .

  • john miles

    So a Pheasant is now classed as ‘Livestock’!! Get your claims in against any shooting estate where pheasants enter the public road. All livestock have to be controlled not to enter a public highway unless attended by their owner to move to another field. If everyone using the roads put in a claim then the shooting estates will become bankrupt.

    Editor’s Comment. Hang on a minute John, if the government are allowing sporting estates to classify their game birds as livestock, then these bird would be in the same category as chickens, domestic ducks and geese-even horses and cows. Can you see the RSPCA standing for anyone going onto a farm and shooting these animals out of the sky or field for sport. In addition, shooting livestock with a shot gun for sport must be illegal because of the cruelty involved when a leg, head or a wing is shot off, leaving the animal dead or in pain.

  • paul williams

    Surely the buzzard licence applicant doesn’t have prior convictions for poison offences?
    Last week we mentioned that further information had emerged about the licences to control buzzards recently issued by Natural England. We said we were seeking legal advice about what information we…

  • Katrine Paterson

    It’s about time people stopped killing native birds of any kind,not just birds of prey. Every native bird has it’s place in our countryside. Nature keeps their numbers in balance. Many died in the last few years due to severe weather of one sort or another. Buzzard numbers would have plummeted during winters and the heavy flooding all over the country.
    There is no excuse for killing them to protect pheasants which are raised in huge numbers and set free when they are almost as big as mature birds.
    They are a menace when raised anywhere but remote places.
    Some are reared less than a mile from motorways. This is madness.

  • paul williams

    It is legally letting loose a possible Motorway Accident with no responsibility on the owner.

  • patrick beard

    As usual money above everything else talks , this is not about right or wrong its about who holds the the power and im sorry to say that it the rich elite who will always win out in the end . what i would like to know is how many pheasants do the buzzards take a year is it more or less that are killed on our roads . i for one wont be stopping the next time one decides to dart out in front of my car.

    Editor’s Comment. Patrick thanks for your comment. We have heard from an ex gamekeeper that as many as 30% of all pheasants released into the enviroment are not killed at the end of the season. This being the case, why should the shooting fraternity then be concerned about the few that are predated by birds of prey?

  • paul williams

    Foxes,weasels,stoats and raptors are all classed as vermin.I overheard that comment in the cafe at Slaidburn.

  • paul williams

    Hen Harriers, Peregrines,Buzzards,Short-eared owl Goshawks and now the Beautiful Eagle Owl, Persecuted yet again in the Forest of Bowland. And yet by their own admission United Utilities have led us to believe they are a Green Company and care for your enviroment. Just how much care are you putting back into our moorlands,considering the amount you take each month from the consumer?The Truth Is Out on Bowland’s moorlands, Rachel Carsen was right. Sadly, Private Estates have gone the same way, no raptors. Only NWRG seem to care!

    Editor’s Comment. Someone who works for United Utilities has now informed Raptor Politics the company no longer refer to the Hen Harrier or Eagle Owl in any of their conservation/Green publicity-this says it all. The company should make the RSPB redundent for all the good they are doing in Bowland.

  • paul williams

    Coastal and Quarry Peregrine Falcons outside and surrounding the Forest of Bowland all doing very well without protection.