Petition Grant legal protection to Swallow, Swift and Martin nest sites not just nests.
Live bird nests have legal protection, but nest sites do not. Swallows, Swifts and Martins return to the same nesting site year after year. If these nesting sites are destroyed, with few alternatives available, local extinctions are likely.
Swallows, Swifts and Martins are already in severe decline, in part because of fewer insects, reduced habitat when they live abroad, and because their nesting sites are being destroyed. Addressing habitat loss and insect declines are very important, but require long-term resolution. This makes it all the more vital to prevent existing nest sites being destroyed - something which can be legislated on straight away.
This response was given on 25 April 2019
Birds that habitually use the same nests have their nests protected year round. Swallows, swifts and martins may return to sites but nest elsewhere. It is practical to protect nests while in use.
We appreciate the concern around protecting our precious wild birds, and the government is looking carefully at how the issue can be addressed.
The primary legislation protecting wild birds and their nests in England and Wales is the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. All wild birds’ nests, with some limited exceptions in extraordinary circumstances, are fully protected and it is an offence to destroy them while they are in use or being built.
Birds which habitually use the same nests, white-tailed eagles, ospreys and golden eagles, have their nests protected year round, even when not in use.
In the case of swallows, swifts and martins, nests will remain in use throughout the summer until the birds leave on their autumn migration. They may return to the same sites for nesting, but these birds can and will, nest elsewhere. That is why the priority is to protect the nests while they are in use.
All local authorities have a duty to have regard to conserving biodiversity as part of their policy or decision making. As well as this duty, national planning policy states that the planning system should minimise impacts on biodiversity and provide net gains in biodiversity where possible. Specific biodiversity features, such as swift bricks, would normally be required of developments through either the relevant local plan or through the local authority’s development control team.
We want developments to enhance our natural environment, which is why we have announced plans to require developers to deliver a ‘biodiversity net gain’. This means that habitats for wildlife must be left in a measurably better state than they were before any development.
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
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