What does the law allow me to do with a bird injured on the highway?

Last week a swan flew past my office window and into the side of a van driving past, setting in motion a complex series of veterinary and legal problems.

Wild swans are not poultry or game and are therefore protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. It is an offence intentionally to injure kill or take protected birds. The collision was an accident but neither the driver nor anyone else could take the swan. A call to the RSPB was the right move and the bird was taken away and recovered.

Had the swan been taken for the pot there would have been a criminal offence but not one against the Crown. The Crown has a claim to mute swans on open water but in practice limits it's claim to birds on the Upper Thames.

Had the unfortunate bird been a game bird, (pheasants , partridges, grouse etc) there would have been no offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act. In practice, if either the van driver or anybody else had killed the pheasant humanely and taken it home, there would have been no legal consequences. Closed season relates only to shooting. The need for a licence to take game was abolished in 2007. While, arguably, the dead bird on the road might be the property of the highways agency or the owner of the underlying subsoil, nobody is going to feel it worthwhile to pursue claims for a bird killed by accident.