CUMNOCK and Doon Valley residents are being encouraged to not disturb bird’s nests when out gardening.

Birds are vulnerable at this time of year and destroying a nest while it is in use is illegal and could result in up to a £5,000 fine and six months in jail. Every year, birds’ nests are destroyed by people felling or pruning trees and scrub or doing building work.

Other common examples are blocking entry holes to swift and starling nests located in houses, house martin nests being damaged under the eaves of houses, and bird nests being damaged while sites are being cleared for development. As well as these risks to wildlife, dogs which aren’t under control may disturb ground-nesting birds.

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime (PAW Scotland) are reminding the public to be aware of the risks to the birds.

SNH wildlife crime officer Andy Turner said: “Birds are very vulnerable during spring and summer, so we’d urge people to be very careful and check for nests before beginning any major garden or building work.

With many of our garden bird species declining, a few simple checks or changing the timing of works to avoid the bird breeding season can help conserve birds and prevent offences.”

Ian Francis, RSPB conservation manager, added: “In the past 12 months, the RSPB has received over 2,000 enquiries from the public about potential wildlife crime, of which at least 300 related to possible destruction of nests and around 90 related to possibly destroying nesting habitats.

“This is a matter that concerns many people, and we urge home owners and anyone managing land or buildings to follow the available guidance and avoid harming nesting birds.”

It is illegal to destroy, damage, take, obstruct or interfere with any wild bird nest while it is being built or in use, under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

Nests don’t need to have eggs or chicks present to be regarded as being ‘in use’, but may be ‘in use’ from the moment nest building begins.

Any suspected offences should be reported to Police Scotland on 101.