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Bird Sanctuaries, The Law & Best Practice for Pilots.

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I am currently engaged with WWT Slimbridge which is a wetland reserve managed by the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust. I plan to help them with what seems to be the fairly regular problem of aircraft (of varying sort) disturbing nesting and breeding birds and flying low along the river. 

My plan is to create more awareness in the Paramotor community, and to encourage thoughtful flying around all of the UK's reserves. I am also helping WWT Slimbridge in particular to extend the current (out of date) Sep-April advice to become permanent (12 months) advice. The awareness part is below. :-)

Bird Sanctuaries, The Law & Best Practice for Pilots.

The UK attracts great numbers of wintering, breeding and migrating birds. In particular, many estuaries, marshes, cliffs and islands are home to large numbers of waterfowl and seabirds.


While a number of specific sites such as bird sanctuaries are notified and charted for aviation – with 'requested avoidance' many other areas are also important to the bird population.

A bird sanctuary in the A.I.P asks pilots to avoid overflight of specific areas of airspace, but flight through a bird sanctuary is not, in itself, a breach of regulations. The appearance of a bird sanctuary on a chart is not a restriction but information that advises pilots of all types of aircraft to avoid disturbing birds.


Sites important for birds are designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) under the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981) to preserve their special wildlife or geology. Additional provisions under this Act provide protection to vulnerable breeding birds. 

SPAs are classified under the EU Birds Directive for the protection of threatened, vulnerable and migratory species of birds. Within these areas, Member States ‘must take appropriate steps… to avoid any significant disturbances affecting birds’. 

What many people might not realise

is that, as an example, It is an offence under the Act to ‘intentionally or recklessly’ disturb a wide variety of nesting wild bird species or to disturb dependent young of such species. Disturbance can include any activity which changes or disrupts a bird’s natural behaviour, and offences can result in prosecution. This in itself is nothing to do directly with Aviation, but a Paramotor certainly would be considered a Disturbance. Just some food for thought. 

A full list of the UK sites can be found on the Joint Nature Conservation 'Archive' pages at: https://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20191105121616/http://archive.jncc.gov.uk/default.aspx?page=1400




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