One of the most widely-read posts here on the War on Wildlife Project is ‘Nesting Birds and the Law‘, an ever-evolving article that we started back in early 2020 and which has now been revised more than 130 times (mostly to expand the information in it, though we’ll admit to the odd typo). We wrote it originally because many people don’t realise that in Britain nests are largely protected by law, and we felt it may help us all argue the case when we see things – like hedge-cutting during the breeding season – that we think might be illegal but need more information to be certain…
The UK legislation protecting birds and their nests is the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 and the various amendments and provisions that have followed since. Ireland is of course not covered by UK legislation, so it was interesting to read a timely reminder on the law in Ireland that has just been published in the online TheJournal.ie
The relevant law in Ireland is set out in Section 40 of the Wildlife Act 1976 as amended by the Wildlife (Amendment) Act 2000 and the Heritage Act 2018. These Acts stipulate that “it is an offence to destroy vegetation on uncultivated land between the 1st of March and the 31st of August each year”.
There are numerous exceptions (of course) but on the face of it, it does seem to offer nesting birds some measure of protection. However, as the comments below TheJournal’s article note (and we often point out ourselves), legislation on its own is next to useless if it’s not enforced…
Reminder issued about hedge-cutting ban to protect birds during nesting season
THE GOVERNMENT HAS issued a reminder that hedge-cutting is banned from today until the end of August to protect wildlife during nesting season.
Under the terms of the Wildlife Act, roadside hedge-cutting is only permitted between 1 September and the end of February.
The law aims to protect and maintain wildlife diversity by establishing areas where birds, in particular, can thrive during nesting season. It prohibits cutting, grubbing, burning or destruction of vegetation.
There are exceptions to the legislation such as works undertaken in the ordinary course of agriculture or forestry, for public health and safety reasons – including road safety – the destruction of noxious weeds and the development of sites for building works.
An investigation on hedge cutting policy published last week by Noteworthy revealed that at least 3,000km of hedges were cut back by local authorities since 2018 during the prohibited season between March and August.
Nearly all cases were carried out on road safety grounds, however authorities were unable to provide Noteworthy with documents on road safety assessments carried out.
The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) of the Department of Local Government and Housing has said it wants people to be aware of this ban as we move through the spring and summer.
“In Ireland, where there is relatively low cover of native woodland, hedges are of exceptional importance in providing food and shelter and habitats and corridors for maintaining wildlife diversity, particularly for birds, but also for other fauna and for wild plants,” they said.
“Wrens, dunnocks, robins, thrushes and willow warblers as well as many rarer species depend greatly on hedgerow habitats.
“In general, untrimmed, thorned hedgerows containing shrubs such as blackthorn, whitethorn, holly, briars and brambles are favoured by birds as they provide food, shelter, nesting places and protection from predators during the breeding season.”
While it is rare, there have been a number of convictions of people found to have broken this law. Records released to Noteworthy show that the NPWS brought 88 successful prosecutions between 2007 and 2020 for illegal hedge cutting or removal.TheJournal.ie, Reminder issued about hedge-cutting ban to protect birds during nesting season, March 2021