Bird nesting season is upon us. The days are getting longer, which means the bird breeding season will soon be in full swing! It is therefore a good time to remind everyone of the important considerations for projects that may affect habitats used by nesting birds.
All wild birds, their nests and young are protected throughout England and Wales by the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 (as amended). It is illegal to kill, injure or take any wild bird, or damage or destroy the nest or eggs of breeding birds. This legislation applies to all bird species – whether rare or vulnerable and listed on Schedule 1 of the 1981 Act such as Barn Owl, or common and sometimes disregarded such as Feral Pigeon.
There are two key things to be aware of. Firstly, birds can nest just about anywhere! Different species have evolved and adapted to nest in virtually all habitats and situations. Some birds are predominantly scrub or ground-nesting, some prefer trees, while others have adapted to nest in or on buildings (such as Swallows and gulls, respectively). Some species nest in holes, others build open cups. The second thing to remember is that although the main bird breeding season is March to August, some birds (most typically pigeons and doves) will nest through the year.
If nests (whether completed or in the process of being built) are found, any works in the vicinity with the potential to damage or destroy the nest, eggs or young birds, must stop until the birds have finished breeding. This includes disturbance that could potentially cause an adult bird to desert a nest resulting in death of chicks or egg failure.
Nesting sites should only be inspected by experienced ornithologists. Breaking the law when it comes to nesting birds can lead to vehicles being compounded, hefty fines and even prison sentences. So please take appropriate precautions.
RPS’ ornithologists can advise on, and conduct, all aspects of bird work including nest-related clerk of works.