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The Barn Owl Trust

Conserving the Barn Owl and its Environment

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The possession of dead owls, eggs, feathers etc.

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The W&C Act 1981 Part 1, Section 1 (2) prohibits the possession or control of:

  • (a) any live or dead wild bird or any part of, or anything derived from, such a bird
  • (b) an egg of a wild bird or any part of such an egg

However, Part 1, Section 1 (3) states that no offence is committed as long as there is proof that:

  • (a) the bird or egg had not been killed or taken, or had been lawfully killed or taken or
  • (b) the bird, egg or other thing in his (her) possession or control had been lawfully sold (whether to him(or her) or any other person)

Anyone who finds or keeps a dead Barn Owl or egg (or any part of the bird or egg) needs to know that the burden of proof falls on the holder. It is therefore important to keep a record of where, when and in what circumstances the specimen or item was found, in case such information ever becomes necessary to prove that an offence has not been committed. The subsequent sale of the specimen or item is illegal unless by a registered person. The legislation surrounding taxidermy and the keeping of dead wild Barn Owls, feathers or eggs and their subsequent sale or purchase, is complex and several licences may be required. Contacting the relevant country agency is thoroughly recommended.

In 2008 the legal department of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) advised the Barn Owl Trust that owl pellets are not considered to be ‘derived from’ birds and may be collected, kept, or traded without licence.


It is important to be aware of the increasingly high-tech approach to bird crime that has recently been adopted. X-rays are now being used to investigate cause of death in some specimens, including taxidermied ones. DNA sampling has been employed to prove the genetic heritage of birds in an attempt to cut down on offences involving wild birds being passed off as captive-bred. Be under no illusion, wildlife crime is still very much alive and well in the UK in the early part of the 21st Century!



There is more information on this topic in the Barn Owl Conservation Handbook


The Barn Owl Trust is dedicated to conservation & education and does not operate a visitor centre.
Barn Owl Trust staff and volunteers
Waterleat, Ashburton, Devon TQ13 7HU
+44 (0) 1364 653026