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Can I cut down a tree that blackbirds have started nesting in?

Sent in by Brian Hood, Market Deeping, Peterborough

Under Section One of the Wildlife & Countryside Act (1981), it is an offence to intentionally damage or destroy the nest of any wild bird while it is in use or being built - which is also referred to as an 'active' nest. 

A nest is considered active as soon as the first twig, or other nesting material, has been added to the nest site. If you know that there is a nest being built or occupied, you would have to delay the work until after the blackbirds have bred.  

Blackbirds often have three broods. After laying, the eggs take 13-14 days to incubate. After that, the newly hatched nestlings will take a further 13-14 days to fledge and leave the nest. So, if each brood takes approximately one month to fledge and the pair have three broods, the nest will be deemed active for around three months.

If you are planning any tree cutting, hedge trimming or other garden maintenance, always check beforehand that there are no active nests present. If you see birds carrying nesting material or food items into a hedge, bush or tree, you can be pretty sure that there is a nest within. Remember also that certain species have been known to nest in every month of the year, so always check first!

If you see anyone potentially damaging or destroying a known nest, you should contact the Investigations Unit at the RSPB on 01767 680551 or report the incident online at You can of course remain anonymous.

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