April, 2010


We're about more than just birds (though obviously we like them a lot).

Wildlife Enquiries

'Good morning, Wildlife Enquiries...' We take hundreds of calls and e-mails every day. Find out what everyone's asking this week
  • Breeding trouble......

    Nestbox cameras
    More and more people seem to have nestbox cameras so this is generating lots of enquiries about the behaviour of nesting birds, blue tits in particular. Incubation, nest building, predation and conflict with other species (including bumblebees) have all been asked about.


    Discuss this in the nestbox forum



    Still more nesting ducks and now they are starting to hatch and getting all over the place - including one report of some hatched young on a seventh storey balcony, and many more worried about the long distance from the nest to water. The best advice is to let mum lead the ducks away, give her a hand to cross roads if you can but in most cases she knows what she’s doing – More information here


    Young blackbirds, robins and the rest are starting to fledge. It’s common to find fledglings hopping about the ground and unable to fly – this is perfectly normal and, unless they are in immediate danger, please leave them alone! Mum and dad will be back soon and they’ll carry on as they were – more information here


    Racing pigeons
    A few strays are starting to be reported – if you find one in your garden it’s probably hungry and thirsty. Give it some water and some seed and hopefully they can get on their way after a little rest. If not, these birds need to be reported to the Royal Pigeon Racing Association, either through their website or by calling 01452 713529


    Hoopoe sightings
    A few genuine reports of hoopoes around the country. These exotic looking birds turn up in the spring, occasionally in gardens – not your usual garden bird! More info here


    Matching pair
    We occasionally get reports of two male robins feeding young. Some people assume the female robin doesn't have a red breast but both male and female do. They can be very difficult for humans to tell apart - fortunately the robins can……

  • Don’t worry, summer migrants aren't Eruptive!

    Ash cloud and birds?
    There have been some people concerned about the impact of the ash on birds. Some have suggested that this is why the house martins are late. We are not sure what the impacts will be but hopefully it will not be a major problem for summer migrants. House martins migrate at altitudes of up to 6000ft whereas the ash cloud is thought to be stratified beyond 11000ft. Migrants might be a little late because the wind is blowing from the North at present, rather than choking on volcanic ash!

    Rowers row with swan
    We have had several queries about some Cambridge rowers who have written to the Queen to get permission to remove an aggressive mute swan that has been attacking them. We think the rowers should just avoid the area for the time being while they are nesting. The bird is merely defending its territory and people really should try to tolerate that this is part of their natural behaviour. Imagine how you would feel about a boatful of people cruising through your living room whilst looking after your brooding wife? Alternatively, they could use it as motivation to row faster. Then they would beat Oxford every year! 

    The birds and the bees
    Nestbox cameras give people a chance to see what happens inside and a few reports have mentioned concerns over bees also inspecting newly occupied nestboxes for small birds. These will often be chased away by the birds. We would suggest letting the birds and bees sort themselves out. If the bees want the nestbox more, then let them have it.

    Am I going Cuckoo?
    Cuckoos have started to arrive! We often get reports of people seeing sparrowhawks or hearing collared doves in January or February but genuine cuckoos normally only start arriving as of now. This movement ties in with the proliferation of their favourite food - hairy caterpillars.

    Councils cutting it?
    Lots of reports of councils cutting down hedgerows and clearing area’s of vegetation much to the understandable concern of many. Hedges and tree's should never be cut during the nesting season of March to August (following a mild winter from February onwards). Hedge trimming is best left until the end of the winter to leave the larder of fruits and nuts for wildlife. If it is not possible to carry out the trimming at this time, it can be brought forward as necessary. The most important consideration is to avoid such work during the breeding season. Active nests are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. A few species can be killed or taken under the terms of some general licences. It is important that any such work should be approved by the relevant licensing statutory body. The licencee’s can confirm listed species, T&Cs and conditions of use. Add your name to urge politicans to invest more money in protecting things that future generations will thank us for - Sign the Letter to the Future.

    More reports of ducks nesting in gardens or courtyards and balconies. The ducklings should soon be hatching for many of these birds. Once a full clutch of eggs are laid they are incubated for 28days. After hatching the mother will attempt lead to ducklings to waters within a day or two. Obviously the further away from water they are, the greater the potential dangers. Also see - How to help ducks and ducklings

    Crows and windscreen wipers
    Crows, jays and magpies often attack windscreen wipers. They may be initially attracted by their reflections and then proceed to attack the wipers, working themselves up into somewhat of a frenzy. All we can suggest is covering the cars or moving them – this removes the trigger the reflection. Birds attacking windows is still a very common query as well.
    Please do feel free to start discussion relating to any of these topics on our forums area!