Breeding Season for Wild Birds: What to Pay Attention to

birds nest with chicks

A chaffinch with its young chicks.

Have you found a featherless baby bird on your Sunday walk and are now wondering what you should do? Or do you want to trim your hedge but can hear a loud twittering between the leaves? Find out here what you should know about the breeding season for wild birds.

When does the breeding season for birds take place?

In general, the breeding season for most wild bird species in our domestic gardens takes place from spring to summer. The following table lists when which bird species breed and by which colour you can recognise the clutch:

Bird species Breeding season Colour of the clutch
Blackbird March - July green
Blue tit April - June reddish-brown, spotted
Bullfinch April - August bluish with russet to black markings
Chaffinch March - June light brown to bluish with russet markings/stripes
Coal tit April - June dark, spotted
Crested tit April - June russet, mottled
Dunnock April - August green to blue
Great tit April - July reddish-brown, mottled
Nuthatch April - June reddish-brown, mottled
Redstart May - July green to blue
Robin April - July russet
Spotted woodpecker April - July white
Wagtail March - July grey-brown, speckled
Wren April - August russet, speckled

What applies to birds kept as pets?

The breeding season is somewhat different for pet birds. Animals in human care can breed regardless of the time of year.

The following factors play a significant role:

  • Daylight
  • Temperature
  • Food

If you keep your exotic birds indoors, they may also breed in autumn. However, if they live outdoors in an aviary, they will presumably lay their eggs in spring due to the cold and shorter periods of daylight.

Breeding season for birds: What needs to be paid attention to?

Native bird species need your help because they are losing their habitat being destroyed due to redevelopment. Hence, it is important that you also do your best to protect the offspring of garden birds.

How to take young birds into consideration:

  1. Trimming hedges

Many bird species build their nests between the branches of thick hedges. There the eggs and freshly hatched chicks are protected from predators (e.g. cats) and inclement weather. According to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, the nesting and breeding season for birds officially begins in February and lasts until 30th September. During this time, it is forbidden to damage bird eggs and nests that are in use.

The exact wording of the Protection of Birds Act, 1954 states that it is still illegal to

  • kill, injure or take, or attempt to kill, injure or take, any wild bird; or
  • take, damage or destroy the nest of any wild bird while that nest is in use; or
  • take or destroy an egg of any wild bird.
hungry chicks
A nest in a hedge with offspring.
  1. Keeping dogs on a lead

It is extremely important to keep your dog on a lead during nesting season. After all, there are also ground-nesting birds, too. Even if there is no lead requirement where you live, it is important to protect birds that you keep your dog away from nests and keep an eye out for young birds.

  1. Offer birdhouses

Since the breeding season for birds starts from March, February is the best time to put up bird houses or nesting boxes in your garden. The birdhouses that you need depend on the bird species.

Whilst robins like wide openings, tits and sparrows prefer smaller entrance holes, whilst wrens need semi-open birdhouses. Ideally, your birdhouses will be made of natural materials like wood, terracotta or wood cement. You should avoid plastic because mould can quickly form inside due to the high humidity.

Young bird found: What to do?

If you find a young bird, you shouldn't act too hastily. Look at its plumage and general condition. If the bird has a fully formed plumage and can already fly a few metres, you should leave it where it is.

If the feathers are still surrounded by husks and the bird is not yet mobile, it is probably a nestling. In this case, orphaned chicks do need your help!

sparrow chick
Helpless on its own: an orphaned sparrow chick.

Attention: It is a legal offence to distrupt a bird's nest. If the nest is easily accessible and you would like to put the chick back, you are in a legal predicament. If you still decide to put the chick back, you should only do so if the parents are foraging for food and don't notice you. Since birds don't have a strong sense of smell, the parents do not notice that you have touched the chick.

If you can't find a nest or the bird is injured, you should pick it up. Before putting it in a box, you should examine it cautiously. After all, the chick may be the victim of the cat or have a broken wing.

cat bird prey
A familiar problem of cat owners: Domestic cats with outdoor access often hunt young birds during the breeding season.

If you can't find a nest or the bird is injured, you should pick it up. Before putting it in a box, you should examine it cautiously. After all, the chick may be the victim of the cat or have a broken wing.

If you spot open wounds or the bird gives a poor general impression, you should contact a vet. They can prescribe antibiotics for bacterial infections or painkillers.

Keep the chick warm if you take it home. Blunt tweezers or a disposable syringe with which you can place solid food or food pulp into the beak are perfect for feeding.

The food that your chick needs depends on what bird species it is. If you cannot identify the species yourself, you can take advice from your vet or experts (e.g. bird welfare organisations).

Sources:

https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1981/69

https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1954/30/section/1/enacted

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