MAJOR new changes to bird control licences have come into effect during a vital time for crops and new-born lambs.

Natural England have revoked three general licences for controlling 16 specific species of wild birds taking effect from last Thursday, April 25.

Species covered in the revocation include magpies, rooks, jackdaws and jays, feral and wood pigeon and number of invasive non-native species such as the Canada goose.

The decision comes after a legal challenge by wildlife protection organisation Wild Justice, a group formed by BBC wildlife presenter Chris Packham, campaigner Mark Avery and activist Ruth Tingay.

Licences which fall under the new changes include: General licence GL04: To kill or take certain species of wild birds to prevent serious damage or disease, General licence GL05: To kill or take certain species of wild birds to preserve public health or public safety and General licence GL06: To kill or take certain species of wild birds to conserve wild birds or flora or fauna.

In a statement, Natural England said it was currently working ‘at pace’ to put in place alternative measures to allow lethal control of certain birds in defined situations, such as to prevent serious damage to livestock from carrion crow and to preserve public health and safety from the impacts of feral pigeons. It intended to start issuing these new licences on Monday.

Natural England’s interim chief executive Marian Spain said: “We recognise this change will cause disruption for some people, but we are working hard to ensure it is kept to a minimum.

“We will bring forward interim measures as quickly as possible as the first stage of our planned review of the licences. We want to make sure our licensing system is robust and proportionate, taking into account the needs of wildlife and people.”

In response to the decision, chief executive of the Countryside Alliance Tim Bonner said: “The withdrawal of the licences at such short notice is completely impractical and irresponsible, and will result in thousands of people unknowingly breaking the law.

“Many involved in pest control will be unaware of the changes, and this decision will only serve to bring the law into disrepute.

“The decision to bring in a new set of licences without consulting is even more bizarre.”