International Legislation

European Council Directive 2009/147/EC on the conservation of wild birds (Birds Directive)

The Birds Directive provides cross border protection for wild bird species in Europe, and the protection of important habitats for these species, through the creation of Special Protection Areas (SPAs).

​Annex 1 of the Birds Directive details those bird species which are protected due to being:

  • in danger of extinction,
  • vulnerable to specific changes in their habitats,
  • considered rare due to small populations or restricted local distribution, and
  • those requiring particular attention for reasons of the specific nature of their habitat requirements.

Member States are required to ensure the conservation of the most suitable habitats for these species through the designation, management and monitoring of SPAs.

Annex 2 of the Birds Directive details those bird species which may be hunted, but for which hunting periods are limited and protection is provided for the most vulnerable periods (i.e. during return migrations to nesting areas, during reproduction and the raising of young). Annex 3 relates to the banning of activities which directly threaten the specified bird species listed within this Annex. Annex 4 provides for sustainable management of hunting while requiring Member States to ban any methods that result in non-selective or large scale killing of birds. Annex 5 relates to research to underpin the protection of bird species covered by the Directive.

Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar Convention)

The Ramsar Convention provides an international framework for the conservation and ‘wise use’ of wetlands and their resources. In particular it enables the designation of wetlands of international importance (Ramsar Sites) in accordance with the criteria defined within the legislation. These criteria consist of two groups: Group A which requires a site to contain representative, rare or unique wetland types and Group B which requires a site to be of international importance for conserving biological diversity.

Specific criteria within Group B which relate to water birds state:

  • Criterion 5: A wetland should be considered internationally important if it regularly supports 20,000 or more water birds.
  • Criterion 6: A wetland should be considered internationally important if it regularly supports 1% of the individuals in a population of one species or subspecies of water bird.

Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (the Bern Convention)

The Bern Convention provides for the conservation and protection of wild plant and animal species and their natural habitats (Appendices I and II) and regulates the exploitation of migratory species (Appendix III)