Hedge your bets - look after birds this breeding season
RSPB NI is asking homeowners and landowners here to help wildlife this year by putting down gardening shears until September, not to disturb house-nesting birds and, in the wider landscape, protect wildlife and vital habitats by not burning heather or gorse.
The leading conservation charity is appealing to people to be extra careful when tending to gardens from now on – and not to touch any birds’ nests in or on houses. Many people mistakenly believe that birds only nest between April and September, but some species have already started. Singing, displaying and nest building among birds including blackbirds, magpies, wrens and robins has begun, proving that the breeding season will soon be in full swing. Some people might have noticed more bullfinches, goldfinches and greenfinches in gardens too, while it won’t be too long before spring migrants including chiffchaffs and willow warbler start to return. Pruning hedges or shrubs and tidying plants could have a serious effect on birds’ breeding success if nests are dislodged or damaged - always thoroughly check hedges/trees for nests before starting to cut them - so RSPB NI is asking people to save everything but essential tidying in gardens until later in the year.
RSPB NI Policy Officer Phil Carson said: “RSPB NI and other environmental organisations always get lots of calls and messages at this time of year about nesting and hedge-cutting and how this can affect birds in breeding season. Our hedges are so important for nature in gardens and in our countryside, providing an important space for a range of wildlife. From nesting habitat for birds, to pollen and nectar sources for pollinators including bees and butterflies, it’s important that we manage these vital habitats well. Protecting them during the spring and summer months is one of the key steps we can take.”
Birds nesting in NI are legally protected under the Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order 1985 (as amended). Under this legislation, it is illegal to intentionally or recklessly take, damage or destroy an active nest or its contents. This can be reported to the PSNI by calling 101. Phil said: “If you discover a nest outside, the advice is to try and restore any covering preferably with cuttings from the same hedge or those nearby and give it a wide berth until young birds have flown the nest. It is quite common for birds to nest in/on houses too. Unless you believe the birds to be trapped, you should leave them alone.”