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Will the house martins have left their nests by the time our apartments are due to be decorated?

Sent in by Eileen Saunders, Kent

House martins arrive in the UK during spring and are here until the autumn when they return to Africa.

Because they usually have at least two lots of young, sometimes three if conditions are favourable, their nests contain either eggs or chicks from May until August. Even in September there may be a few nests still in use.

It is illegal to damage or destroy active nests so, during redecoration, these nests must be left intact or the work delayed until the autumn. If necessary, when the birds have left in September/October and it is clear that these nests are no longer in use, they can be removed.

To prevent nesting in the future, the triangle under the eaves must be closed in with wood or fine mesh chicken wire. This needs to be done when the birds are absent so from late autumn until they return in the spring.

However, house martin numbers have declined greatly in recent years so it will help them enormously if traditional nesting sites can be left intact. Only restrict access to areas, such as those above doors and windows, where droppings in the vicinity of the nest may cause problems.

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