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Bird Nesting Season


The main breeding season for nesting birds usually runs throughout March to August each year. This can be weather dependent, and some birds may nest outside this period, so it is important to check carefully for active nests prior to cutting.


Nearly all nesting birds are protected by law as it is an offence under Section 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981 to intentionally take, damage, or destroy the nest of any wild bird while it is in use or being built, or to intentionally kill, injure or take chicks or adults, or intentionally take or destroy any eggs.


Hence, during this period all reasonable precautions must be taken not to disturb nesting birds, this includes completed nests and nests that are in the process of being built. Old nests from previous years or nests from which the young birds have left this year are not protected.


Legally vegetation cut be cut any time of year (except for some mature hedgerows protected by law), however, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) recommend avoiding hedge cutting during the main breeding season for nesting birds, which Southwater Parish Council works towards ensuring advice is sought from RSPB where required.


In circumstances where works are required during nesting season Southwater Parish Council ensures nesting assessments are carried out by a contractor prior to carrying out the works ensuring they also operate a Wildlife Policy. This includes visual checks of the area to be cut are carried out and identifying if there is the presence of birds acting in an agitated or disturbed manner. Birds constantly flying back and forth to the same area and giving ‘distress calls’ could indicate the presence of a nest.


If during cutting, a nest is uncovered, works are immediately ceased in that area and to ensure the nest site is not left uncovered. Southwater Parish Council will not knowingly start work where birds or animals are nesting or roosting unless the works are considered necessary to public safety.


If very large areas of scrub or bramble require clearance the work to these areas is carried after the nesting bird season and cleared during the September to February period when nesting bird activity is much lower.


It is the responsibility of the Police to enforce the legislation of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. If you become aware of someone cutting a hedge during this period, you may want to consider speaking to them and politely highlight the risk to birds’ nests, and the laws protecting nests. If they were to proceed knowing there is evidently an active nest at risk, please contact the Police on 101, and ask for a reference number.


Should you have any further queries please contact Southwater Parish Council or RSPB Wildlife Enquiries on 01767 693690.

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