Nests and the law | Man cautioned after nest removed from loft

One of the most widely-read articles here on The War on Wildlife Project (as the list of ‘most viewed’ posts to the right shows) is ‘Nesting Birds and the Law‘ which we wrote in March this year and which appears to be doing fairly well in Google searches!

In that post we tried to answer the more frequently asked questions concerning removing nests or disturbing nesting birds. We stated that “Under the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981, it’s ‘an offence intentionally to kill, injure or take any wild bird, or take or destroy their eggs or nest, or damage a nest, while that nest is in use or being built’ and went on to explain what that means in real life situations.

We also pointed out that it is actually very difficult to get an enforcement action against someone breaking the law, because it’s difficult to prove ‘intention’. However, it can be done! And we’re very glad to read that Suffolk police have recently cautioned a 60-year-old man after a sparrow’s nest containing live chicks was removed from a loft space and almost destroyed following routine maintenance.

Now, some people may try to suggest that involving the police because of a few sparrows is a serious over-reaction – but that’s entirely missing the point.

The law was not enacted with a caveat that ‘common’ birds aren’t worth protecting (even if that’s the impression left by the government’s dishing out of General Licences): every bird is protected under the Act, and it’s not up to an individual homeowner to judge whether one species is more deserving than another. Besides which, contrary to what many people might believe, House Sparrows have been in decline across the UK for decades and according to the British Trust for Ornithology’s ‘House Sparrow Survey‘ the species has declined by nearly 71% since 1977. They have disappeared from many towns and cities.

There are a number of possible reasons for the decline seen in House Sparrow populations within urbanized landscapes. Again according to the BTO these include:

  1. Reduction in the availability of favoured food, either for adults or chicks or both (this is linked to catastrophic invertebrate loss)
  2. Increased levels of predation (populations of free-ranging domestic cats have grown hugely over the same period, and there may now be over a million cats in the UK)
  3. Loss of suitable nesting sites.

That last point is important in the context of this post. In urban area House Sparrowspopulations within urbanized landscapes. Again according to the BTO these include:

  1. Reduction in the availability of favoured food, either for adults or chicks or both (this is linked to catastrophic invertebrate loss)
  2. Increased levels of predation (populations of free-ranging domestic cats have grown hugely over the same period, and there may now be over a million cats in the UK)
  3. Loss of suitable nesting sites.

That last point is important in the context of this post. In urban areas House Sparrows (like Swifts, which have also declined hugely) tend to nest in holes in buildings. Many homeowners ‘tidy’ up their homes, repairing entrance holes and denying birds access to nesting sites. If birds do get inside, just as in this case, nests are sometimes removed during ‘maintenance’. Given how scarce these nesting sites have become, every single nest that is removed or tidied up, and every chick that is simply ‘thrown away’, has a negative impact.

Yes, there may be a little noise, a little bit of mess to clean up, but we don’t have the right to simply dispose of living birds, our actions are impacting even once ‘common’ birds, and House Sparrows have (and deserve) as much legal protection as every other species.

 

Stowmarket – Man cautioned after bird’s nest removed from loft space

A 60-year-old man has been cautioned after a bird’s nest was removed from a loft space in Stowmarket.

The incident occurred on Wednesday 3 June at a property in Rattlesden Close, when a nest containing House Sparrow chicks, was removed and almost destroyed following routine maintenance.

After the nest had been removed, the occupant – a woman aged in her 50s – decided to take the chicks to Stowe Vets, where they were hand-reared until Wednesday 24 June. The chicks were later released back into the wild in Onehouse.

The incident was reported to the police and a 60-year-old man was interviewed and given a caution in relation to three wildlife offences under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (protection of nests and eggs of wild birds) yesterday, Monday 17 August.

Sergeant Brian Calver of Suffolk’s Rural Crime Team said: “This is a positive result for those helpless birds. Without the help of witnesses and volunteers, the outcome would have been very different.

I want this outcome to serve as a strong message to those that show little regard for our wildlife by confirming that we will take action.

“I am very grateful to the public that continues to report such acts and would urge anyone with information concerning wildlife crime to report it to us.

Anyone with any information should contact Suffolk police via:

Website: http://www.suffolk.police.uk/contact-us/existing-report-update

Crimestoppers – Contact the independent charity Crimestoppers 100% anonymously on 0800 555 111, or via their online form: www.crimestoppers-uk.org

Phone – call 101

Please note in the event of an emergency you should always call 999.

Suffolk Police, 18 August 2020