Care: How not to go cuckoo over bird’s nests

17th August 2018

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The cuckoo’s call may be the soundtrack to a summer’s day, but its nature is to decimate the homes of other birds by rolling eggs from a nest and replacing them with their own. If you cut down trees or trim your hedgerows without consideration for the birds that may have made their homes there then you will be the cuckoo, decimating their habitats. However, there is an easy way to avoid this and keep your garden’s foliage tamed while protecting the fauna that call it home.

The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 covers most of what you need to know about the way you must handle bird’s nests on your property. This covers all wild birds except for game birds, but even these are protected during closed season under the Game Acts. So, under the act you are not allowed to:

  • Intentionally kill, injure or take any wild bird.
  • Intentionally take, damage or destroy the nest of any wild bird while it is in use or being built.
  • Intentionally take or destroy the egg of any wild bird.
  • Have in one's possession or control any wild bird, dead or alive, or any part of a wild bird, which has been taken in contravention of the Act or the Protection of Birds Act 1954.
  • Have in one’s possession or control any egg or part of an egg which has been taken in contravention of the Act or the Protection of Birds Act 1954.
  • Use traps or similar items to kill, injure or take wild birds.
  • Have in one’s possession or control any bird of a species occurring on Schedule 4 of the Act unless registered, and in most cases ringed, in accordance with the Secretary of State’s regulations (see Schedules).
  • Intentionally or recklessly disturb any wild bird listed on Schedule 1 while it is nest building, or at a nest containing eggs or young, or disturb the dependent young of such a bird.  

List provided by the rspb

So, what can you do?

  1. First of all, take an interest. If you look carefully enough when you’re out in your own garden you will see telltale signs of nesting birds, from the nests themselves high up in the branches of your trees to the rustling of bushes and comings and goings of birds as they find more sticks for their structures.
  2. Timing. Many households will consider trimming their hedges and pruning their trees when they start to look untidy. This may well be the spring and summertime because that’s when growth explodes in your garden and more people are enjoying the natural wonders of their outside spaces. However, this is of course also the time when birds are nesting so there is an argument for planning these things more often in advance. Not least because the best time to prune most trees is in the winter when you can see damaged limbs most clearly, growth is at its slowest and the colder temperatures keep at bay the insects and fungal infections that could otherwise infest a pruning wound.
  3. March to August. To continue the theme of the last point – timing – birds will nest and breed during the months of March to August inclusive. So, where possible, avoid pruning, cutting back or any other work that will disturb them during those months.
  4. Abide by the law. Yes, follow the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 as stated above, but also follow the law on joint responsibility with your neighbours for their boundary hedges and trees. Speak to them to discuss trimming and pruning and establish a calendar of works for when this should happen in the year so wild growth is curbed, and discuss their responsibility to not disturb birds at other times. Think of this joint responsibility also when you consider chopping off limbs and roots that invade your garden from next door and your responsibility to not harm the trees or hedges and to check for wildlife before doing anything.
  5. Call in an expert. A tree surgeon or arborist will know the breeding seasons of the species of birds you are likely to have nesting in your hedges and trees – they will know to look first before they lop, and they will be able to provide advice on timings, what to do with empty or abandoned nests, what authorities to contact should the birds in your garden become a pest, and so on.

To book a visit from one of our tree surgeons or arborists to discuss your feathered friends or to put in place a calendar of works with or without your neighbour to ensure you’re your trees and hedges are maintained and your wildlife protected, call us on 0208 292 8992. We’re always happy to pop round or to help with a little advice

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