Bird nesting season generally occurs between 1st March and 31st August, when the majority of nesting birds lay their eggs and bring up their young.
Most birds start laying there eggs around the first of April, but some do lay earlier than this. The cycle starts when hormones are triggered in the birds usually activated by things such as the lengthening of the day, change in temperature and the abundance of food. The timing depends on species. For example a Tawny Owl feeds on rodents, which are easily caught when the grass is short and can be easily seen. Whereas a Blackbird forages for worms, which need the milder damp weather so that they are encouraged closer to the surface.
With most species, nests are only constructed for the purposes of holding the eggs and chicks. However many do use old nest sites as a place to sleep outside of the season. A well-constructed nest has usually fallen apart by autumn to early winter.
Eggs are laid once a day until all the eggs are laid, which can be as many as 15. The bird, who has now grown a thick patch of feathers known as a brood batch underneath its belly, will not sit and incubate the eggs until it has finished laying all of its eggs.
Incubation lasts between 2-6 weeks depending on the size of the egg. A small egg such as one belonging to a tit will hatch a lot quicker than that say of a Swan.
Once the eggs have hatched, the hatchlings require feeding by their parents every 15 minutes. This is one of the reasons why getting their timing correct is so essential to ensure plenty of food is available.
It takes around 2 weeks for the hatchings to fully open their eyes and gain a full set of feathers. At this point they leave the nest as fledglings. Not all necessarily fly straight away, but hop around on the ground for a couple of days until there tail feather are fully grown.
As part of the Wildlife and Countryside Act it is a criminal offence to carry out any activity that may cause harm to nesting birds or to destroy their nests or eggs. Although there is no legal dates which hedge cutting cannot occur, since the main breeding season is 1st March to the 31st August, it is strongly advised not to cut within these dates. If there is no other option than to do so, then a full breeding survey must be carried out by a suitably qualified person to ensure that no breeding birds are nesting. It should also be assumed that birds are nesting unless stated otherwise.
Birds do not only nest in hedges and trees. Ground nesting birds nest in long grasses, moorlands and wetlands. These can be very difficult to see. The same date disciplines should be adhered to when carrying out any flailing or topping works where ground nesting birds may be. Good knowledge of the area is essential to find out what species of birds are common in that area and establish their nesting dates and sites. Again, if in doubt, a survey should be carried out.
If you think that an offence has been committed you should contact your local police force to report it and ask for the case to be investigated by the Wildlife Crime Officer.