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An Introduction to UK and EU Wildlife Schedules


Much of the UK’s wildlife is protected to some extent by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended). It is illegal, for example, to uproot any plant or fungi without a landowner’s permission. It is also illegal to kill or injure any wild bird or damage or destroy its nest or eggs. Some species of plant and animal, though, have higher levels of protection as a result of their vulnerability to extinction or to disturbance. These are listed in a set of ‘schedules’ which form part of both the Wildlife and Countryside Act and the UK’s implementation of the EU Habitats Directive. But what do these schedules mean for those who might have to work near protected species and how do they protect wildlife – find out below in our Introduction to UK and EU Wildlife Schedules.

The Schedules

The first four schedules of the Wildlife and Countryside Act concern bird species:

Schedule 1

  • Schedule 1 Part 1 species are particularly vulnerable species protected by special penalties. It is illegal to disturb any bird on this schedule at, on or near an active nest without a licence. This includes photographing and approaching nests or dependant young. It is, of course, also illegal to kill or injure them at all times of year. The relevant devolved government’s environmental advisory body (such as Natural England or NatureScot) is responsible for granting licences, often to ecologists for research or connected to development work. Species on the list may be rare breeders, such as the bittern and dotterel, and/or sensitive to disturbance, such as barn owl. The full list of species is here.
  • Sections 1A and A1 apply only in Scotland. These make it illegal to harass hen harriers, golden eagles, white-tailed eagles and red kites at any time of year (1A) or interfere with habitually used golden and white-tailed eagle nests even when not in use (A1).
  • Schedule 1 Part 2 covers a trio of species that have the special protections of the first part of the schedule during the close season (February 1st to August 31st). Outside of this, however, they can be killed or taken. The species involved are goldeneye, pintail and, in Caithness, Sutherland, Wester Ross and the Outer Hebrides only, greylag goose.
Goldeneye pair
Goldeneyes isn’t protected outside of the close season

Schedule 2

Species listed on Schedule 2 of the act have the standard protections during the close season, so may not be killed, injured or taken at that time. However, outside of this, they can be. These are all wildfowl such as the mallard, pochard and tufted duck, or traditionally hunted waders such as snipe and woodcock. Some variations between regions currently exist. For example, the close season at present for woodcock is February 1st to September 30th in England and Wales, but only lasts until August 31st in Scotland. The full list is here.

Pochard male
Pochard also loses its protection outside of the close season

Schedule 3

  • Schedule 3 Part 1 covers the sale of birds. Listed species can be sold live at any time as long as they have been bred in captivity and ringed with an approved identification band. It includes linnets, blackbirds, chaffinches and barn owls.
  • Part 2 covers the sole species that can be sold dead at all times, the woodpigeon.
  • Part 3 lists species that can be sold dead between September 1st and February 28th, including mallards, coots and woodcocks. The full list of Schedule 3 species is here.
  • Scotland has a couple of extra clauses covering a few additional species falling into special criteria.
Introduction to wildlife schedules linnet
Linnets are listed on Schedule 3

Schedule 4

The final bird schedule lists a number of raptors that must be ringed and registered with the government if they are kept in captivity. These include golden eagle, white-tailed eagle, honey buzzard and merlin.

Schedule 5

Schedule 5 covers those invertebrates, reptiles, amphibians, fish and mammals needing extra protection. Because so many different taxa are covered, there are a number of different levels of protection, making it a bit more complicated. Confusingly, because the protections are covered by four sections referred to in section 9 of the main body of the Wildlife and Countryside Act, they are referred to as 9.1, 9.2 etc rather than 5.1 and so on.

  • Section 9.1 species cannot be intentionally injured, killed or taken
  • Section 9.2 species cannot be possessed, alive or dead
  • Section 9.4a species’ places of shelter or protection cannot be damaged, destroyed or obstructed
  • Section 9.4b species cannot be disturbed while using these places of shelter
  • Section 9.5 species cannot be sold, offered, transported or advertised for sale, wither alive or dead

As with protected birds, those working near listed species and likely to disturb them may need to obtain a special licence from the relevant body. Every five years, the species on the list are reviewed. The current list, including protection levels, can be seen here.

introduction to wildlife schedules slow worm
Slow worms have some protection under Schedule 5

Schedule 6

This list bans the use of a range of methods for taking or killing certain mammals. These methods include traps, snares, nets, poisons, gas or smoke to stupefy, lamping, shooting, chasing with a motorised vehicle and dazzling with mirrors. The species covered are here. The act also bans the following methods of killing for all mammals: self-locking snares, crossbows, bows, explosives (excepting firearm ammunition) and live decoys.

Schedule 8

Although it is illegal to uproot any plant or fungi without a landowner’s permission, certain plants receive extra protection from being uprooted, picked or sold anywhere. The list actually includes fungi, mosses and lichens as well as plants. As with Schedule 5, the list is reviewed every five years. The current list is here and includes rarities such as alpine gentian, ghost orchid and fen violet. A few species, such as the bluebell, can be picked or uprooted, with a landowner’s permission, but not sold.

Bluebells cannot be sold under Schedule 8

Schedule 9

The birds, animals and plants on Schedule 9 are mostly non-native species that have become established in the wild in the UK but need to be controlled because they impact native wildlife negatively or there are concerns that they may do in the future. Part I lists animals and birds, including grey squirrel, ruddy duck and American mink. Part II lists plant species and includes highly invasive plants such as giant hogweed, Japanese knotweed and Himalayan balsam.

Grey squirrel
Grey squirrel is classed as an invasive species needing control measures

The act prevents the introduction into the wild of any of the listed species. As well as non-native species, there are a few native species listed. These are all ones that have been or may be part of reintroduction programmes. They are included so that releases can be fully regulated and assessed to ensure there is no threat to biodiversity. For example, although choughs are native to the UK, reintroduction programmes currently running in Kent and Jersey are strictly controlled. Schedule 9 species are here.

Although choughs are native, reintroduction programmes are strictly controlled

EU Schedules

In addition to those listed above, at time of writing certain EU environmental schedules also give additional protections to some species in the UK. Schedule 2 of the Habitats Directive lists all the non-bird animals given special protection. Schedule 5 (Schedule 4 in Scotland) covers plants. The species concerned are called European Protected Species.  Some species are of course also listed on the UK schedules.

EU Schedule 2 protections go even further than UK law and make it an offence to do any of the following to listed species:

  • kill, injure or capture
  • harass an individual or group
  • disturb while it is using a place of shelter
  • disturb while it is rearing young
  • obstruct access to a breeding site or resting place
  • disturb in a way that may affect its future distribution
  • disturb in a way that may impede its survival, breeding or caring of young
  • disturb while hibernating or migrating
  • disturb any cetacean
  • take or destroy its eggs
  • damage or destroy a breeding or resting place

Once again, a licence can sometimes be obtained by those working near listed species to carry out activities that might otherwise be illegal. The full list of European Protected animals covered in the UK are here. European beaver is now also protected in the UK.

Introduction to wildlife schedules otters
Otters are a European Protected Species

EU Schedule 5 plants cannot be deliberately picked, destroyed, uprooted, cut or collected. The law applies whatever stage the plant is at in its growth cycle. European Protected plants are here.

In most cases, possession and sale of species on both lists is also prohibited.

Schedules and Surveys

UK and EU law gives extra protections to a number of bird, animal and plant species. This means that any developments need to know in advance whether any of these species are present on a site before work starts. Preliminary Ecological Assessments, as well as sometimes more in-depth species surveys, are all part of this process.

Purple Plover can offer a range of surveys to assess the presence of protected species and we are Schedule 1 licence holders. Should any protected species be present, we can also advise on mitigation measures.