Helping nesting birds feel at home

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AS THE breeding season gets underway and millions of birds start nesting in roofs and gardens, the RSPB is offering advice to people in Sussex to help their wild visitors feel at home.

Instead of enjoying the privacy of their own home, many birds are building their nests in or on houses, which can cause concern, and sometimes even annoyance, amongst people.

The RSPB is getting an increasing number of calls from concerned householders who are hearing noises in their lofts and attics and worrying that birds are trapped.

RSPB experts are reassuring callers that in most cases, the birds will simply be building their nests in small spaces within roofs and wall cavities, and they are not trapped and unable to get out.

They are also keen to point out that there is very little risk of potential damage, and suggesting that if you do have nesting birds, to check the site in the autumn to make sure that there is no rotten wood or a hole large enough to let in rain.

The main culprits are usually House Sparrows and Starlings, as they are traditionally cavity nesters.

Christina MacFarquhar, of the RSPB south east, said: “Birds are naturally secretive and tend to build their nests in hidden places for safety. That’s why they’ll often choose the roofs of buildings, or hedges and shrubs in our gardens.

“You can sometimes even see small birds like Robins and Song Thrushes look around to check they are not being watched before they dart back into the hedge where they are building their nest.”

“For declining species like House Sparrows, Starlings and Herring Gulls, it’s critical that they are able to find safe places to build their nests and raise their young.

“Although it can be tempting to investigate, it’s best to keep your distance and avoid disturbing them.”

During the spring and summer, gulls can become quite unpopular because people are sometimes disturbed by their noise and frightened by their territorial behaviour during the breeding season.

Christina added, “Given the large numbers of Herring Gulls we often see in towns and cities, people are often surprised to hear that they are a red-listed declining species, and protected by law.

“Historically, they thrived in the marine environment, and bred on cliffs and beaches. But their numbers are dropping in coastal areas and they’ve moved inland to find food in towns and rubbish dumps.

“They’re often seen as being noisy, messy and aggressive. However, the overall decline in their numbers is of concern to us, as it suggests that there’s a limit to how much they can adapt to the changing landscape.”

The RSPB is also urging people to be careful of nesting birds when gardening.

Christina said: “You can help by keeping your eyes peeled when cutting or pruning hedges and shrubs, or better still, leaving garden tidying until a bit later in the year.

“If you discover a nest, try to restore any covering and give it a wide berth until the young have flown.”

If you want to attract more birds, or help those already nesting in your house and garden, the RSPB suggest putting up nestboxes on trees and fences, out of direct sunlight and easy reach for predators.

All birds, their nests and eggs are protected by law and the penalties for deliberately destroying active nests are now quite severe.