The illegal shooting of birds in the European Union

Shot Honey Buzzard ©Vilda photo – Lars Soerink

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 of 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 many Balkan countries that caters particularly to hunters from Italy and Malta help them to avoid strict regulations that are implemented in their home countries.

Being shot with pellets, birds may die immediately or later due to the injury. Larger birds may be lucky, with the pellets getting lodged in the body without causing problems. Illegal shooting is possibly the most widespread method of all illegal killing and can affect all age-groups from eggs to adults.

Ways of illegal shooting includes:

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


Related information

White storks hunted down

How law enforcement, birdwatchers and ornithologists collaborate to protect 85,000 honey-buzzards in Italy

Trouble in paradise – The Greek islands that threaten the turtle-dove

Bird that solved migration mystery now killed illegally on its journey

Scientific articles

Illegal killing and taking of birds in Europe outside the Mediterranean: assessing the scope and scale of a complex issue (Brochet et al. 2017)

Preliminary assessment of the scope and scale of illegal killing and taking of birds in the Mediterranean (Brochet et al. 2016)

Shooting is still a main threat for raptors inhabiting urban and suburban areas of Rome, Italy (Cianchetti-Benedetti et al. 2016)

Illegal bird hunting in the Maltese Islands: an international perspective (Raine et al. 2016)

Quantifying illegal hunting: A novel application of the quantitative randomised response technique (Conteh et al. 2015)

Technical reports

A best practice guide for monitoring illegal killing and taking of birds (Birdlife International 2015)

Legal recommendations to eliminate illegal killing and taking of birds (CMS): ENEC, 2015

UNEP/CMS Resolution 11.16 (Rev. COP 12): The Prevention of Illegal Killing, Taking and Trade of Migratory Birds

Resolution 11.16 (Rev. COP12) Annex 1: Scoreboard to Assess the Progress in Combating Illegal Killing, Taking and Trade of Wild Birds (IKB)

EC Roadmap towards eliminating illegal killing, trapping and trade of birds


Compiled: 2020    Copyright: 2020   

Recommended Citation:
BirdLife International (2020) The illegal shooting of birds in the European Union. Downloaded from on 28/09/2022