What is the law around bird nests?

The man shot down a nest of house martins on the side of his home in the Lowestoft area Picture: TOM

House martins can be a nuisance if a nest is built just above a window - Credit: Tom Marshall (rspb-images.com)

Homeowners are being reminded of the law around bird nests ahead of the main breeding season in the UK. 

Sergeant Brian Calver, of Suffolk police's rural crime team, said there are certain laws which people need to be aware of to ensure there is no damage to active bird nests. 

The main breeding season for nesting birds usually runs throughout March to August each year, and the RSPB recommend that cutting hedges and trees is avoided during those times. 

It is an offence under Section 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act (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.

Sgt Brian Calver, of the rural and wildlfe crime team Picture: SARAH CHAMBERS

Sgt Brian Calver, from Suffolk police's rural crime team - Credit: Archant

Sgt Calver said some agricultural hedgerows are protected by law but this does not apply to garden hedges.

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He said: "We always, without exception, get reports from people complaining about people cutting their hedges, saying: 'You can't cut your hedge now, the birds are nesting,' but that's not the case. It's not law.

"The issue is when the birds are nesting, once a bird's nest is active, they are protected by law. If it's accidental, say you are moving something in your garden and you stumble across a bird's nest and disturb it, that is not intentional and not illegal. 

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"One of the issues we do get repeatedly is with house martins and swallows nests. Quite a lot of people don't want them on their house because of the mess they cause. The issue is as soon as that first daub of mud is on the wall, it's an active nest. 

"We've had incidents in the past with people poking them with sticks and shooting at them to stop them from nesting there. It's completely illegal and completely unnecessary. You can't touch them, you've just got to accept they're there."

Sgt Calver added that people planning any garden work where birds might nest should aim to get it done as soon as possible.

"One thing I'd like to urge people to do is if they've got projects in their gardens that they want to do at the moment, or they're planning on doing and it's a habitat where a bird might consider nesting, then get them done straight away because blackbirds, thrushes, long-tailed tits they will also start nesting now," he said. 

"Anything afterwards is chancy, they're best to get it done now and get it out of the way and then everyone can live happily beside each other."

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