Buzzard Gate: The important Questions Natural England won’t answer.

  1. How is Natural England assessing these applications?
  2. Is land management taken into account?
  3. Is the removal of key food species taken into account like rabbits?
  4. What protective measures by the estates are being used?

The licensed removal of 4 clutches of Buzzards’ eggs this year should have resulted in these questions being answered by the estate in question before any licenses were issued. To remove/kill 16  Buzzards would create the question – how many additional new Buzzards would just come in to take the place of those removed/killed? Regarding the Sparrowhawk, this question would be difficult if not impossible to answer as non breeding birds, especially the males, are more likely to be found in cover rather than flying high like Buzzards.

I have worked with pheasant pens and have observed Sparrowhawks perched inside the pens, drawn in by the sheer number of chaffinches encouraged into the pens by the amount of seed/grain on offer as food. The sparrowhawks I saw never took the poults, instead predated just the chaffinches, but scared the poults to death!! That’s why all pheasant pens should be covered with netting to prevent Buzzards or Goshawks etc entering the pens to take the poults.

What do our readers suggest for the next course of action?

Below is the reply to my e-mail I sent to Natural England together with additional information which Natural England attached dated 7 October 2013


Thank you for your enquiry about applications for licences to remove birds of prey in order to protect game birds.

Natural England assess these applications in accordance with the relevant legislation and policy (see below). To date the only licences that have been issued permitting action against birds of prey for the purpose of preventing damage to game birds, were those permitting destruction of four buzzard nests earlier this year. We have published the application, assessment and licence documents for this case on our disclosure log (in the Licence A folders under the 24 May 2013 entry), and these documents detail the information and licensing tests we consider for such an application.

The following further information on this case may be of interest:

Thank you.

Customer Services

Natural England

Response to e-mail complaints regarding buzzard licences

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:





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