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Bird Scarers and Gas Guns

Many farmers use bird scarers and gas guns to protect their crops from damage by birds.

There are two main categories of these devices, although some may combine elements of both types:

  • Auditory: these imitate the sound of gunfire or birds’ distress calls, or use sirens or a constant hum
  • Visual: these use birds’ fear of humans, predatory species and sudden movements

Naturally, both of these types have the potential to cause problems for passing horses. The NFU produce a Code of Practice (pdf) on the use and positioning of bird scarers, which is promoted to their members.

We would recommend trying to find out who owns the land where the bird scarer is situated in the first instance, and having a conversation with them to see if they can situate the bird scarer to a different location further away from the road or bridleway, or simply ask that they ensure there are warning signs up to inform riders of the fact there is a bird scarer nearby. Quite often an incident occurs because the rider is not aware of a bird scarer behind a hedge or out of sight and therefore cannot prepare or avoid the route if necessary.

There are some legal controls that may possibly be used if devices cause problems.

The Firearms Act 1968 requires a firearms certificate to be obtained if bird-scaring cartridges are used.

The Environmental Protection Act 1990 includes powers to deal with nuisance from auditory bird scarers.

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 Section 3 states, "It shall be the duty of every employer (includes self employed) to conduction his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far is reasonably practical, that persons not in his employment who may be affected thereby are not exposed to risks to their health or safety".

The Town Police Clause Act 1847 covers the discharging of firearms where the public are endangered.

The Air Navigation Order 1980 requires the consent of the Civil Aviation Authority to fly kites or balloons (visual scarers) above 60 metres (200 feet).

The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 protects wild birds. General licences are issued by Natural England and the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG), which allows authorised persons (including owners and occupiers of land and their representatives) to take and kill certain species regarded as ‘pest birds’. Some other species can only be killed under a different licence issued by Natural England and the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG). Scarers likely to injure wild birds are prohibited. 

These have been used successfully to stop offending farmers from using such scarers. 

Obviously this is not prescriptive and every case is individual. If you wish to make a complaint, it may be wise to take some legal advice. If you're a BHS Gold member, you can contact the free legal advice helpline (detailed on your membership card). 

If you're unfortunate enough to be involved in an incident with a bird scarer, please report your experience online. We can only go to those who can make changes if we have evidence of problems encountered.

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