Our nature is in crisis. Trees and hedgerows provide vital food and shelter for wildlife, particularly in urban areas where natural food and cover may be harder to find.
Yet we are receiving increasing reports of tree and hedge maintenance works being undertaken during the sensitive breeding season.
The law is clear. 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 (with some exceptions).
As a criminal offence the police are responsible for enforcing this legislation. Their advice is to call them using the 101 phone number to formally report any suspected illegal activity and make them aware of any evidence you have. This will help them to take swift action to halt works if needed. Please make sure you call as the police have made us aware that they cannot act on social media reports.
If no active nests are present, works may legally take place. However Our advice to anyone considering tree or hedgerow management is that any work should be avoided between March and August.
We don’t just advise this because the law protects active nests, we are also concerned that removing trees and hedgerows during this time can leave nature vulnerable. This is the main breeding season for nesting birds, and where they need our trees and hedgerows the most as they build their home and raise a family. And, our trees and hedgerows are vital for supporting many other species including insects, hedgehogs and much more.
Our conservation director Martin Harper has said: "We cannot keep trying to squeeze nature into smaller and smaller spaces or demand that wildlife fits in with our plans. Across the UK wildlife is vanishing at an alarming rate, and our planning system must play a vital role in not just reversing this decline but helping nature to recover."
If the works are deemed unavoidable, for example on public health and safety grounds, we would want to see the lost habitat replaced, with new trees and hedgerows planted elsewhere nearby.
Your local knowledge is important:
If you believe an individual or organisation is acting unlawfully and are undertaking works which put active nests at risk, please follow the steps below.
- Speak to them and politely mention the risk to birds’ nests, and the laws protecting nests.
- If they proceed, and you know there is an active nest at risk, contact the police on 101, and ask for a reference number.
- If you have photographic/video evidence, or recent survey data showing the presence of nesting birds please make the police aware of this.
The Police have advised us that they cannot act on social media reports, so please ensure you contact them directly using the 101 phone number to formally report any suspected illegal activity and make them aware of any evidence you have. This will help them to take swift action to halt works if needed.