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Belgian bird experts say to prune trees now, not later

© Belga
A very high proportion of nesting birds are endangered species.
© Belga

Now is the time to trim your trees – not March or April – if you’ve got the birds in mind, say the experts at the Royal Belgian League for the Protection of Birds (LRBPO).

The beginning of March is when birds will start making their nests in preparation of a family, and in many places in Belgium it’s actually against the law to disturb that process.

In Brussels, felling or cutting down trees with motorised machinery is prohibited from 1 April to 15 August. In Wallonia, intentionally disturbing birds during the breeding season is strictly prohibited.

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Many Belgians pruned in the middle of nesting season last year as a result of being quarantined at home due to the coronavirus pandemic, says Maud Remacle, project coordinator at LRBPO.

“People got to work on their gardens last year because they were at home, and they did a lot of pruning themselves,” she said.

Her organisation estimates it received up to twice as many reports as usual during that period, and so they want people to be mindful of the birds this time around.

Another point Belgians should keep in consideration is that it generally isn’t necessary to pick up baby birds that are spotted on the ground, no matter how good their intentions.

“Birds at the end of their growth period throw themselves out of the nest. The parents continue to feed them on the ground and teach them to protect themselves from predators. It’s normal, but people will find a young bird and get worried,” says Nadège Pineau, the manager of the care centre in Brussels.

The centre recorded 1,221 cases of chicks on the ground being picked up by walkers in 2020, compared to just 655 in 2019 and 805 in 2018, an increase they suspect is also due to the quarantine.

One out of every four times, the bird could have stayed put, Pineau estimates.

The Royal Belgian League for the Protection of Birds is also asking for the official start date of the bird breeding season to be moved forward, as climate change is causing animals to breed earlier and earlier.

Helen Lyons
The Brussels Times

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