Cross Compliance: Guide to Cross Compliance in England 2015 (GCCE 2015 v1)
SMR 2: Wild birds

SMR 2: Wild birds


(Previously SMR 1)

You must protect all wild birds, their eggs and nests. Extra rules apply if you have land classified as a Special Protection Area (SPA).

For the purposes of this SMR, a ‘wild bird’ is ‘any bird of a species which is ordinarily resident in, or is a visitor to, the European territory of any member state in a wild state, but does not include poultry or, except in sections 5 and 16, any game bird.’ This is the same meaning as in section 27 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended).

Any bird shown to have been bred in captivity is not subject to these requirements unless it has been lawfully released into the wild as part of a repopulation or reintroduction programme.

In England, Special Protection Areas (SPA) are always designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

What you must do

For land classified as a SPA you must:

  • get Natural England's consent in writing before carrying out, causing or permitting any specified operation listed in a SSSI’s legal documents, or listed within a special nature conservation order, unless that operation is already covered by a management agreement, scheme or notice.
  • comply with all management notices served by Natural England. A management notice is different from a management agreement as it legally obliges the recipient to carry out certain activities.
  • comply with the terms of any restoration order served by a court. This applies where the purpose of the notice or restoration order is to protect or restore the special interest features of the area or otherwise restore the land to its former condition as may be so specified.

You must not:

  • intentionally or recklessly destroy or damage the special interest features of the area or disturb any bird that is a special interest feature (this requirement can apply to actions that take place other than on the SPA itself but which have the same consequences).

‘Special interest features’ of an area are interpreted as the notified interest features of the Site of Special Scientific Interest that are also relevant to the Special Protection Area (SPA).

  • You will not break the rules for a SPA if you have a reasonable excuse. A ‘reasonable excuse’ may include the following:
    • planning permission to carry out the work
    • consent from a public body or statutory authority that has complied with its duty to consult Natural England before giving the consent
    • it is an emergency operation (provided that Natural England is told as soon as possible after the emergency).

More information

The list of wild birds that you must not disturb while nesting is published with this guide on GOV.UK. Search for ‘Cross compliance: guidance for 2015’ (contained in Schedule 1 to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981).

You can find out if your land is in a SPA by contacting Natural England, or by searching the Nature on the Map website at


Natural England: 0845 600 3078
RSPB: 01767 680 541

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