What counts as illegal shooting?

  • Killing of protected species
  • Hunting outside of the open hunting season
  • Hunting on protected areas
  • Exceeding the limit of killed animals
  • Illegal use of firearms, such as hunting with silencers, night vision scope, automatic and semi-automatic guns and handheld explosives.

What is driving illegal shooting?

The majority of the illegal shooting of wild birds is recreational in nature. This accounts for the overwhelming majority of birds shot in Europe. However, there are also financial drivers.

One key financial driver is the trade for belief-based use. Once the birds are shot, their carcasses are taken, their heads, legs and feathers chopped off and dried, then sold domestically and abroad to traditional doctors.

Another frequent driver is the protection of private property. Some people shoot birds that predate on their crops or fish.

What does the law say?

Across the African Eurasian Flyway, there is a wide variety of local, national and international laws governing the shooting of wild birds. In most countries where there is not a complete hunting ban, there is a distinction between huntable species (game or quarry) and protected species. Huntable species are often afforded further protections via limits to the number of individuals allowed to be shot in one season or per day, and via the existence of hunting seasons which limit the hunting to a certain period of the year.

Under the EU Birds Directive, all naturally occurring wild bird species in the territory of the EU are protected. The bird species that can be hunted in the EU are listed in the Birds Directive’s Annex II. The main principle set in the Birds Directive for hunting selected bird species is that any use of wild birds must comply with the principle of wise and ecologically sustainable use. However, imbalances among law enforcement can create opportunities to fuel criminal activities in other regions. For example, the hunting tourism industry in certain Balkan countries that caters particularly to hunters from Italy and Malta help them avoid strict regulations that are implemented in their home countries.

What can you do?

Get in touch with your local BirdLife partner and see if there is a volunteer watchdog group you can join to monitoring illegal shooting during key migratory periods.

BirdLife partners regularly host training events and bird-protection camps to ensure the safe passage of migratory birds in their autumn and spring journeys

Remember: live birds can only be handled by experienced people with proper tools. An injured bird should be taken immediately to the closest veterinarian.

Please report all suspected bird crime to the police and to your local BirdLife partner!