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Thursday, 26 April 2018

Bushcraft and the Law; Foraging for eggs

 If you have been keeping up with my wild food micro blog; Foragers Diary you will see that eggs have featured in a few of the recent updates. It is worth discussing the legal issues regarding the foraging of eggs for food, in a survival situation I would consider it acceptable to take and eat eggs from birds nests, however I am currently not in a survival situation and since the 1954 protection of Birds Act it is illegal to interfere with or take the eggs of wild birds, so where am I getting my eggs from?

The eggs that have featured in recent posts come from captive pheasants and partridges and most of them are destined for an incubator to be hatched and reared ready for release on to a shooting estate. A few surplus eggs though make it into my kitchen and are a lovely semi-wild addition to our diet. We collect them just as you would eggs from domestic chickens from pheasants that are captured and housed in large outdoor laying pens, these birds which provide the eggs are also released once the laying season is over, they will generally lay from the beginning of April until mid May. Each year at the end of January we set large cage traps to capture enough cocks and hens to lay eggs for us again. As pheasants and partridges are game birds this is acceptable, to catch other species of birds from the wild or to interfere with their nests and eggs though is normally illegal.

Game keepers did historically take eggs from the nests of partridges to rear themselves to improve the success of hatches and better protect them from predators but this isn't done any more although you can collect eggs from wild duck nests and rear and release the chicks under the conditions of a general licence.

There are a few pest bird species that the general licence for the control of wild birds for conservation purposes grant permission for you to destroy their nests such as;

  • Canada geese
  • Egyptian geese
  • monk parakeets
  • ring-necked parakeets
  • sacred ibises
  • Indian house crows
For this licence to apply you need to be operating under the authority of the landowner or local authority though, it doesn't grant just anyone permission to destroy the eggs and nests of these species though and it does need to be for purposes of conservation not just because you fancy a goose egg for breakfast. 

So before you head out foraging in the spring time and expect to make a delicious omelette remember that you generally can't interfere with the eggs and nests of wild birds.  

A post shared by Geoffrey Guy (@gguy_bushcrafteducation) on

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