Birds Nesting in or Close to Hedges


I'm new here.... recently took early retirement and enjoying life immensely. part of that is watching the wildlife in our back garden and in particular, encouraging birds to visit, feed, and hopefully nest!

Our garden isn't huge - about 40ft square - and is enclosed on all 3 sides to the back of our house by a tall (approx. 3.5 metres) leylandii hedge. Not only does this provide us with lots of privacy, it also provides shelter, food and hopefully a nesting site for birds and wildlife. Our neighbour on one side has now asked us to halve the height of thee hedge. (It suited her while she had kids at home kicking a football about in the back garden - but now they have left she is more or less demanding we cut this back).

I believe that not only will this kill the hedge, it would also be very detrimental to the wildlife and environment. Not only that, we also have a tit cote about 2 feet from the hedge that is hexagonal and has a box on each side. The boxes have seen a great deal of activity over the last fortnight that I can only assume is the blue and great tits sussing out the suitability of our cote as a potential home to nest and rear their babies!

I'm no expert, but having read up on a few sites I do know that it is illegal to cut hedges where birds are or may be nesting - does anyone know if this rule might also be applied to a site (for example, the tit cote) which is very close to the hedge as well?

Many thanks in advance!


  • Hi Karen welcome to the community.
    Just googling the problem it looks like without agreement with both parties or permission from the authorities (council) the allowable height is around 2m.
    Take a look here on trimming etc of them
    It looks like what you have to avoid is cutting it back to the brown bits.
    I could be wrong but I don't think the law would cover the cote just because it is close to the hedge.

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  • The nesting birds in hedges stuff applies whilst they're actually nesting - so you cannot remove a hedge if there's an active nest in it, but before/after.... no problem. As your neighbour has asked you to cut it back now, before nest building, I don't believe the birds are a valid reason to resist. It probably comes down to how much you value good relationships with your neighbour I'm afraid!


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  • Hi Karen, I agree with what Alan and WJ have already said. I understand your wanting to keep the current height of your Leylandii but these fast growing hedging trees can grow very quickly and can start to remove light, especially from smaller gardens hence it is better to keep them trimmed and to a height of around 2 metres which is generally acceptable to neighbours and council alike, it will also help the hedge remain healthier, thicker and be easier to keep under control and birds will still have plenty of places to build their nests should they choose the Leylandii. Trimming back in height and trimming sides should not kill the hedge if the Leylandii are in good condition; they often stay in far better shape and condition if they are kept regularly trimmed than allowed to grow tall and more spindly. As for the birds nesting, along with already having the tit cote you could maybe try fixing a single nesting box (facing between north and east and around 2 - 3 metres off the ground) as I would imagine most birds including the tit species like their own space when nesting and not too close to other nesting birds. Good luck and hope you get to see some lovely fledglings come June time.


    Regards, Hazel 

    "Each kindness shown to birds or men is sure to flutter back again" 

  • Hi Hazel
    Many thanks to you also for your unbiased and very helpful response... I’ve done quite a lot of reading up on the laws of the hedge heights but especially useful to hear from other bird and wildlife lovers. The tip on the bird box facing between N and E is very helpful and we have another tree in the garden that would be the ideal spot!
    Thank you all again!