RSPCA - Living With Nesting Birds

Can bird nests be moved or destroyed by building contractors or tree surgeons when ‘in the way’?

Nests cannot be moved or destroyed by anyone while they are being built or are still in use – apart from exceptions to allow the control of certain birds for specific reasons under licence. Birds are at their most vulnerable when nesting – they are at risk of either being killed or disturbed so much that they abandon the nest and eggs.

Building contractors are often unaware of the legal protection nesting birds, their eggs and young have and what action they can legally take. However, reckless building work, tree-felling or hedge-cutting at the height of the nesting season can leave local authority contractors, developers or individuals facing prosecution.

In England and Wales, anyone found guilty of an offence is liable to a maximum penalty of six months’ imprisonment or a level 5 (£5,000) fine, which can be imposed in respect of each bird, nest or egg affected.

Before starting any building work or cutting back any vegetation it is important to forward-plan and take precautionary measures to avoid having an impact on any nesting birds (and other protected animals – such as roosting bats). Ensure that work only proceeds after nests are no longer in use.

To report an injured or sick bird to the RSPCA please ring the 24-hour cruelty and advice line on 0300 1234 999.

If you see a dead garden bird please report it to:

For more information visit:

Victoria Lee