Wild bird habitat duties: guidance for public bodies

Providing guidance for public bodies on duties relating to the preservation, maintenance and re-establishment of a sufficient diversity and area of habitat for wild birds in Scotland.

Interpretation of the Bird Habitat Duty

In order to effectively interpret the meaning of the duty it is necessary first of all to establish a definition of what “sufficient diversity and area of habitat” means. The Birds Directive in Article 2 requires Member States to take the requisite measures
to maintain the populations of naturally-occurring wild bird species at a level which corresponds in particular to ecological, scientific and cultural requirements, while taking account of economic and recreational requirements, or to adapt the population of these species to that level. Article 3 requires Member States to take the requisite measures to preserve, maintain or re-establish a sufficient diversity and area of habitat for these naturally-occurring wild bird species. Taking this alongside principles enshrined in the Habitats Directive leads to the following definition:

The objective relating to sufficient diversity and area of habitat for birds is taken to mean that wild bird populations in Scotland should be maintaining themselves on a long-term basis as a viable component of their natural habitats across their natural range.

The focus for action under the Duty in Scotland should be on the habitat requirements of species/populations that do not meet this definition.

The most useful compilation of assessments of bird species/population statuses is in “Birds of Conservation Concern” (BoCC), produced periodically by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the British Trust for Ornithology and Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust in collaboration with the statutory nature conservation bodies.

Species on the red and amber lists of BoCC can be assumed not to meet the definition and should form a starting point for assessments of agendas to support the Duty.

BoCC is compiled at a UK level and some tweaking of the red, amber and green lists has been needed to allow for variations in status in Scotland compared with the other UK countries. However, this gives us a starting point for looking at habitat maintenance/restoration priorities. Annex 1 provides a synopsis of these species assessments at a broad ecosystem scale.

Conservation status assessments link to individual bird species but in most cases it is expected that assessment and implementation measures will be based on broad ecosystem-scale habitat evaluations, informed by trends in established bird indices (see the latest version of The State of the UK’s Birds, linked at Annex 1). Existing indices cover breeding farmland birds, breeding woodland birds, breeding water & wetland birds, breeding seabirds, wintering wildfowl and wintering waders.


Email: naturaguidance@gov.scot

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