I HAVE just started birdkeeping once again after many years absence. I have both foreign and British birds. However, the other day I was asked a question by a young boy, who was looking at my birds, which I could not answer.
He asked if he could have any infertile eggs from my aviary birds to start an egg collection. I explained that I knew it was illegal to take British wild bird eggs from the countryside, but that I didn’t know if it was legal to keep a collection of eggs taken from aviary-bred birds. I seem to recall that it is legal to keep a collection of British birds’ eggs if they were collected prior to a certain date, but I am uncertain about this. I don’t want to give this boy any wrong information and for him to end up being prosecuted.
Is it legal for someone to have in their possession a new egg collection containing foreign bird eggs or only British bird eggs that have been obtained from legally held aviary birds? Is the new law that same for Scotland and England? A.M., Scotland.
Bernard Howlett, eminent breeder of British birds, replies: There is no reference within the Wildlife & Countryside Act (WCA) relating to the eggs of aviary birds. Wild birds and their eggs are fully protected by the WCA. The taking of wild birds’ eggs has been illegal since at least 1954. Since the WCA came into force on September 28, 1982, it has been illegal merely to possess or control the eggs of wild birds. Those who choose to be in possession of wild birds’ eggs are obliged to show, on a balance of probabilities, that the possession is lawful. The prosecution merely has to prove possession.
This would include eggs of native species allegedly laid in aviaries. Wild birds’ eggs are only protected if they are viable; those nests naturally abandoned are not protected. Eggs of aviary birds are not protected under the WCA. Therefore eggs laid by aviary birds can be kept or passed on. I do not recommend that lawfully held eggs should be passed on, because of all the ramifications that could follow. Common foreign species whose eggs are collected from aviaries are not protected by the WCA.
I don’t know of any “new” law. The WCA applies to England, Scotland and Wales, but not to Northern Ireland.