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Best to give nests a rest this spring

Last modified: 26 April 2013

House sparrow on fencepost

Image: Graham Catley

As people head into their gardens this weekend, the RSPB is warning to be careful of nesting birds that may have made their home in trees, hedges, shrubs and in roofs. 

With the long, arduous, and in some cases lethal, winter now hopefully behind them birds have started pairing up with mates and making homes ready to raise their young. But because of the prolonged wintery conditions and late start to spring, birds are already up against it. Nest sites are at a premium thanks to many usually-suitable sites provided by trees, shrubs and hedging still being lifeless and providing no cover. 

Val Osborne, the RSPB’s head of Wildlife Enquiries, said: 'At this time of year there is normally is plenty of shrubbery for birds to make safe nests in and hide from predators, but the late start to spring has meant that many leaves are yet to come out. 

'Instead of their usual spots, birds may opt to build homes in more unusual places as well as ivy and other evergreens, so gardeners should stay alert and be vigilant when pottering about this weekend. If you come across a nest, leave well alone – birds that are disturbed may decide to abandon their eggs or young for fear of the site not being safe.'

And for those lucky enough to have a garden that has started to flourish the RSPB is asking to hold back on the hedge cutting to avoid destroying nests and baby birds. 

'This is a crucial time for our feathered friends. They’ve already been through a lot – especially the migrants with their late arrival into the country and the terrible conditions they had to contend with – so we need to make sure we help them as much as we can through the breeding season. 

'Leaving nests well alone, providing high-energy food and a good supply of water should do the trick,' added Val. 

The RSPB is also warning people that birds could be nesting in their roofs. Roofs provided a luxurious nest site for many birds, including red-listed species like house sparrows and starlings.  

Val said: 'If you have birds in your roof then they leave them in peace and hold off on any repairs until the nest is no longer in use.  Usually no damage is caused by nesting birds, in fact the only way you’d know they were there is because of all the chattering and cheeping they do, but most people find that endearing.' 

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