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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. However, passing horses may also get scared or spooked by these, which can cause distress or injury to both horse and rider.

  • Last reviewed: 15th July 2022

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

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

Advice for equestrians

To begin with, try having a conversation with the owner of the land that the bird scarer is on to see if they can:  

  • Place the bird scarer to a different location further away from the road or bridleway 
  • Put some warning signs up to warn other riders and carriage drivers that a bird scarer is nearby so they can avoid or prepare for it.  

You might want to make a complaint using the relevant legislation if devices do unfortunately cause problems. 

  • If you wish to make a complaint, it might be helpful to take some legal advice, as every case is individual, and there isn’t always a straightforward solution.  
  • If you’re a BHS Gold member, you can contact the free legal advice helpline.  

Please, also remember to report your experience of an incident to the BHS.  

  • This helps us collect evidence of common incidents and work towards making positive changes for equestrians and their horses. 

Advice around putting up bird scarers

The NFU has produced a Code of Conduct on the use and positioning of bird scarers. However, two of the key things you could do to keep horses and riders safe are: 

  • Avoid placing a bird scarer near a road, bridleway, or any other place you are aware that horses might pass close by. 
  • Put up warning signs. Incidents often occur because the rider or carriage driver is unaware of a bird scarer behind a hedge or out of sight; warning signs can help riders to prepare or avoid the route if necessary. 

Relevant legislation

Firearms Act 1968 

Requires a firearms certificate to be obtained if bird-scaring cartridges are used.

Environmental Protection Act 1990

Includes powers to deal with nuisance from auditory bird scarers. 

Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 Section 3

Requires every employer (including self-employed) to do their work in a way that ensures, as far as reasonably practical, individuals not in their employment don’t have their health and safety put at risk. 

Town Police Clause Act 1847 

Covers the discharging of firearms where the public is endangered.

Air Navigation Order 1980 

Requires the consent of the Civil Aviation Authority to fly kites or balloons (visual scarers) above 60m (200ft). 

Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 

Protects wild birds and prohibits scarers likely to injure 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).  

Report an incident

Anyone can report their incidents or near misses to us; you don’t have to be a BHS member. Reporting your incidents helps us to better understand the rate of equine-related incidents and near misses across the UK.

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