Countdown to the nesting season: Businesses warned of four-week window for essential bird-proofing
With only weeks to go until nesting season in the UK, businesses working within the construction, development and demolition sectors are being warned to take vital precautionary measures now to bird-proof sites to avoid the risk of costly days.
John Dickson, managing director of NBC Environment, explains: “If nesting birds are found anywhere on a construction site it is enough to bring work to a halt. Companies that remove birds or nests themselves are breaking the law and this can result in substantial fines or even a custodial sentence.
“It’s a scenario that many businesses may not consider until it’s too late. However, it can mean delaying works during some of the most productive months of the year until the birds have fledged, and this can have significant financial consequences.”
Birds begin nesting in March and the young typically fledge around July. The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981* specifies it is illegal to destroy, or even move, any bird’s nest and in some cases** it is even an offence to simply disturb nesting birds. This means it isn’t just projects in rural locations that are at risk, urban, green and brown field development sites can be equally susceptible.
It is not yet too late to put mitigation measures in place before the breeding season begins. A sensible precaution is to bring in a bird behavioural ecologist to survey the site to identify previous signs of nesting to pinpoint species that could potentially return to the area. As the nesting season approaches the consultant can also look for courtship behaviours that may indicate further risk. They will then produce a RAG report and advise on acceptable measures to take to avoid potential conflicts and provide auditable evidence to safeguard the project.
Dickson concludes: “Ideally measures should be put in place well before the breeding season starts, once courtship begins it’s a race against time to secure a site before any nests can be built. Certainly, leaving it this late makes the process more stressful for all involved, but there is still time.
“That said, this is certainly less stressful than leaving things to chance. Some species, particularly ground-nesting birds, are very hard to spot to the layperson. That is not the case for experts, such as ornithological groups or Natural England. Bear in mind, a single nest could represent tens of thousands of pounds in lost revenues.”