Press Release on Pigeon Shooting

In the current circumstances, just announced, whereby the shooting of Wood Pigeon may not take place during the months of June, July and August, it is perhaps timely to revise our memories on the background to the Laws and Derogations in Ireland concerning the shooting of birds and especially, in this instance, Wood Pigeon.

The background:

Under Directive EU79/409 (the “Birds” Directive) all birds are protected. However, certain species may be hunted during a formal hunting season outside their period of reproduction. All birds must be fully protected during their period of reproduction. The period of reproduction may generally be regarded as commencing when nest building commences or in the case of migratory birds, when the first bird leaves on the return migration. The end of the reproductive cycle is when the young birds have fully fledged. Following a European Court of Justice judgement, the Commission has determined that return migration therefore commences on 1st February and all migratory bird hunting should cease throughout the EU from that date. Non migratory species must also be protected during their reproductive period and Member States are obliged to set the dates of
hunting seasons to take account of this. Accordingly, the Woodpigeon has a hunting season commencing November 1st and ending on January 31st.

The Derogation:

Notwithstanding the legal obligation to give complete protection to all birds during their period of reproduction, the Directive provides under Article 9 that Member States may derogate from the general obligations as regards full protection in certain circumstances which are specified. These include safety at Airports, prevention of the spread of disease, crop protection etc. In Ireland, the Minister with responsibility for wildlife has given effect to Article 9 Derogations by Declaration Under Regulations 3(1)(A) of the European Communities (Wildlife Act 1976) (Amendment) Regulations 1986 (S.I. No. 254 of 1986). This Statutory Instrument sets out the conditions which apply for a derogation to exist.

The wording of the S.I. is of paramount importance and should be studied and fully understood by anyone undertaking the killing of birds for the purposes of the derogation, and crop protection in particular, outside the normal hunting season. It is also worth remembering that the derogation applies to the owner/occupier of the land and not the hunter. The hunter is merely the servant/agent of the owner/occupier. There is no formal application process for derogation. It is sufficient for the circumstances which meet the conditions as set out in the Declaration to exist. However, while there is no statutory requirement for seeking permission, the owner/occupier should notify his local Wildlife Ranger that he/she will be controlling Wood Pigeon under the Derogation to protect his/her crops.

The Declaration:

The period covered by the Declaration (S.I.) spans a full year. It was previously issued on a quarterly basis. The S.I. states:

‘The Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, being of the opinion that the species referred to in the Schedule to this declaration represent a threat to public health or are likely to cause serious damage to crops or to livestock or are likely to cause damage to fauna and being satisfied that no other satisfactory solution exists, hereby declares pursuant to regulation 3(1)(a) of the European Communities (Wildlife Act 1976) (Amendment) Regulations 1986 (S.I. No. 254 of 1986), as adapted, that for the purpose of preventing the disease, injury or damage specified in column (2) of the Schedule, the said species may be captured or killed on any property throughout the administrative province of Leinster by any of the means, arrangement or methods specified in column (4) of the Schedule during the period specified for each species in column (3) of the Schedule to this declaration, by the owner or occupier of any such property or the servant or agent of the owner or occupier of any such property on which the said threat to public health is represented by such species or in order to prevent serious damage to crops or to livestock or damage to fauna on such property, as specified in column (2) of the Schedule’.

Ministerial Declarations for the period May 2020 to April 2021

Ms. Josepha Madigan, T.D., in her capacity as Minister for Culture, Heritage & the Gaeltacht is the Minister responsible for signing the annual derogations currently. And so, under the terms of the EU Birds Directive, all EU member States, including Ireland, are bound to take measures to protect all wild birds and their habitats. The Directive allows Member States to make derogations from its protective measures where certain wild bird species are causing damage to crops, livestock and fauna or represent a threat to public health or safety or to air safety.

The Minister has signed a State-wide Declaration for the 12-month period from 1st May 2020 to 30th April 2021. A separate countrywide Declaration was signed in respect of air safety. PDF versions of these Declarations are also published on the NPWS website –

This time around, rather than the somewhat common roll-over situation, some of the key features of the recent declarations are as follows:The three seagull species on the State-wide Declaration are confined to a particular area in North Dublin. 

  • Different control methods are allowed for different bird species in different situations
  • The exclusion of the Wood Pigeon from the State-wide Declaration in respect of one criterion (the prevention of damage to arable crops) for the period 1 June to 31 August 2020.
  • Three seagull species on the State-wide Declaration are confined to a particular area in North Dublin.
  • The use of non-meat based poisoned or anaesthetic bait to control certain species of Pigeon is only allowed under permit from the National Parks and Wildlife Service. This permit must be applied for in advance of control action occurring.
  • The use of cage traps is allowed as a control method for certain species. Any traps used must comply with the relevant traps and snares regulations, (Wildlife Act 1976 (Approved Traps, Snares and Nets) Regulations 2003, and Section 35(5) of the Wildlife Act). Further details in declaration attached.
  • The addition of the Common Buzzard to the Air Safety Declaration for Cork Airport.


What has created all the furore this time around is that the Minister, on the advice of the NPWS, has excluded the shooting of Wood Pigeon for the months of June, July, and August. This decision, they say, has been based on “professional objective scientific advice” ! What exactly this means, nobody knows in the NARGC and perhaps nobody knows outside of the NPWS itself either. We have asked to see what this advice is and indeed who are the authors of this advice and this information is awaited. What is most upsetting for cereal farmers and hunters is that this decision was made without reference to either the IFA (I understand) or the NARGC. That any Government Minister would take unilateral action of this type is outrageous and is more consistent with a dictatorship than a democracy. It must be condemned, plain and simple.

What next ?

Naturally the NARGC is doing all it can, in conjunction with the IFA and other interested parties, to have this decision reversed. Representations have been made to the Minister, to Politicians and parliamentary questions have been set down. In different times, perhaps more open and strategic
measures could have been undertaken but right now, what with Covid-19, we are hamstrung. We have received hundreds of telephone calls from concerned hunters all over Ireland and your anger and sense of disbelief are shared and well understood. We will lobby tooth and nail on your behalf in the days and weeks ahead and sincerely hope that the status quo can be reinstated in good time before June 1st .

Chris Gavican.


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