Appeal to help breeding birds

Profile photo of surfbirds

Published by on June 7, 2014 courtesy of RSPB, surfbirds archive

With the bird breeding season in full swing, RSPB Scotland is urging people to consider nesting birds as they go about their work.

This follows reports from members of the public concerned about land management activities in areas where there are known to be breeding birds and other protected wildlife.

The conservation charity is appealing for land managers, developers, local authorities and foresters to give nature a home at a time when all of Scotland’s native breeding birds have either eggs or young in the nest. Some species, such as robins, have first broods of young that have fledged and are preparing for second broods.

Many Scottish bird species have suffered long-term population declines, with farmland species particularly hard hit. Populations of lapwing and curlew both dropped 56% between 1995 and 2011, while oystercatchers suffered a 30% decline. The number of starlings dropped 40% over the same period, and the skylark population fell by 19%.

In recent years, Scotland’s breeding birds have had to contend with tough conditions, including prolonged wet periods and heavy downpours, which can result in nest failures and the deaths of fledged young birds.

Oystercatcher © Tony Davison, from the surfbirds galleries.

It is therefore vital that when weather conditions are right, such as they have been this summer so far, they produce good numbers of young to help boost their populations.

Duncan Orr-Ewing, RSPB Scotland’s head of species and land management, said: “We are appealing to all land managers to help with the conservation effort and give our birds a home this summer. This is a very sensitive time and it is helpful to avoid actions – such as rolling fields, clearing scrub, cutting hedges or felling trees – that can often be deferred to a less critical time of the year for wildlife.

“Farmers can also help by moving the nests of ground nesting birds such as lapwing and oystercatchers short distances out of danger while carrying out field operations, and watching out for young wading birds scuttling around in fields in June to make sure they are not caught up in farm machinery.”

All birds, their nests and dependent young are protected by law from intentional or reckless damage. Some rarer species, such as red kites and ospreys, are specially protected and significant penalties could apply if nests and young are damaged, for example during tree felling, clearing up wind-blown trees or other woodland operations.

Forestry Commission Scotland produces useful best-practice guidance for forest operations during the summer wildlife breeding season, including simple pre-felling checks for obvious nests of breeding raptors or red squirrel dreys. Felling must be deferred if such nests or dreys are found and compliance with the measures is part of the UK Forestry Standard.

For more information visit:$FILE/Guidancenote31wildlifeprotection.pdf

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