Early hedge trims can disturb birds

THE RSPB is appealing to gardeners and local authorities in Sussex to help garden wildlife by waiting a while longer before trimming hedges, trees and bushes.

The wildlife charity says that giving these plants a ‘short back and sides’ in September is bad news for birds, as many plants will still have an abundance of berries or insects which could see the birds through the winter.

Late nesting birds by cutting back greenery as they may still be resident in shrubs and hedges.

Most garden birds breed between March and August but some species like collared doves and pigeons will be on their nests until late into September.

Adrian Thomas, author of the RSPB book Gardening for Wildlife, said: “Many hedges, bushes and trees will be harbouring insects and their eggs throughout the winter, or will bear all kinds of fruit. These can mean the difference between life and death for many resident birds and winter visitors.

“Even some berries like Firethorn, which are less popular with the birds, will be used as late as February, once the more sought-after berries have already been taken.

“If you can wait until late winter to do the pruning, when plants are dormant anyway, you can give your garden wildlife the best chance at making the most of all that good food before things start coming to life again in the spring.

“And right now it’s always possible that you’ll find a little face staring back at you when you chop back the leaves, because some late-nesting bird is bringing up its chicks there. It is extremely distressing for both the bird and the gardener when a potential nest or shelter is disturbed.”

The RSPB is also appealing to local councils to heed their advice, after receiving numerous calls from members of the public reporting that long stretches of hedgerows are being trimmed almost bare.Some councils have to cut hedges for path access or horticultural reasons, but where there is flexibility, the wildlife charity suggests waiting until the end of summer. The RSPB asks that gardeners, local authorities and contractors consider nesting birds and do preliminary inspections.