Protected Species

Upland birds may be nesting on the ground, crags or trees during the muirburn season.

All bird species are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.  Some species are specially protected, including Golden eagle, Hen harrier, Merlin, Peregrine, and Divers.

While cutting is not subject to the same statutory season as muirburn, to reduce the risk of death or disturbance of birds, mammals and reptiles, cutting should only take place during the muirburn season.

A walk over survey of the area, prior to burning or cutting, should be carried out to allow appropriate avoidance action to be taken, if required; this may include the establishment of buffer zones based on guidance about safe working distances.  For example, areas within 1km of nesting golden eagles should be avoided, after the end of January.

The table in the Supplementary Information – Safe Working Distances – provides details and breeding season dates for key bird species that might be affected by muirburn in Scotland.

Reptiles and some mammals are protected.  Burning within 30m of an otter holt (non-breeding), a badger sett or a pine marten den, within 200m of a wildcat den or otter breeding holt, or within 10m of a water vole burrow may require a licence from SNH. There is more information on the SNH website.


Muirburn in heather (Photo credit: Patrick Laurie)