Hedgehogs Need Our Help

Hedgehogs emerge from hibernation in Ireland during spring months, ready to breed and forage for food. They mostly live in our hedges but have also been found in meadows, forests, and suburban gardens. Once they’ve awoken, they must significantly increase their weight during the summer months. They accomplish this by scavenging for food during the night and they may even travel up to 3km per night in search of food, putting them in danger.

Hedgehogs are one of the most commonly killed mammals on Irish roads. Hedgehogs could survive up to ten years however many do not make it past their second year. A study conducted on the age of hedgehogs killed on Irish roads found 54% of road-killed hedgehogs were less than one year old.

Hedgehogs are in steep decline throughout Ireland, the UK, and elsewhere in Europe. Hedgehogs are nocturnal animals they are usually not seen during their travels unless found killed on our roads. To gather more information on our hedgehogs and their distribution the National Biodiversity Data Centre and NUI Galway have come together to create the Irish Hedgehog Survey and are asking people to log their sightings of hedgehogs across Ireland. You can help by recording your sighting here!

What to do if you find one

If you come across a hedgehog in your garden you can leave them some food. The best type of food to provide them is a wet cat or dog food. Hedgehogs can not digest milk or bread properly, and fruit or nuts are not suitable either. They may still eat these items, but they may cause illness or injury to the hedgehog from digesting them. A shallow bowl of water for the hedgehog to drink from should also be provided.

You can also make your garden more hedgehog-friendly by doing some of the following actions. Check out our Hedgehog Guide too for some more tips and ideas!

Make your garden more attractive to hedgehogs. Leave an area that is never disturbed to become overgrown and allow leaves and twigs to build up. This will help attract insects that hedgehogs love to nibble on. This area will also be an attractive location for them to build their nest. If you have a garden pond, make sure that there is a gentle slope for hedgehogs. If this is not possible you should block access to the pond as hedgehogs can drown in water. The same goes for drains around your garden – fill or cover them to protect any hedgehogs from falling in.

If you are using a netting on your plants don’t let the netting reach the ground. This can result in hedgehogs becoming tangled in the net. Another gardening action to take is to be vigilant. Check long grasses before strimming/cutting. Also, check compost heaps before sticking your fork in to ensure no sleepy hedgehogs are hiding! Avoid using chemicals throughout your garden in particular slug pellets as these can be harmful. A slug pellet alternative is to use eggshells. Wash and crush used eggshells and then scatter these around the base of your plants to deter slugs.

Don’t forget to read and share our Hedgehog Guide with friends! And you can also donate to help us protect and support animal welfare by clicking here. 

 

Download Hedgehog Information Guide Here

Finding Young Birds

One of the highlights of the summer bird season is seeing the first juvenile birds emerge from their nests. In spring and summer, it’s typical to see young birds sitting on the ground or hopping around without their parents.

These young birds are called fledglings and they are at least 13/14 days old. The fledglings can have short wings and tails meaning they have not mastered flying just yet. But they can walk, hop, and flutter around. You may find them down low or on the ground, after they leave their nest, not to worry though, their parents are nearby even if you can’t see them.

How to tell the difference between an adult bird and a fledgling?

Sometimes it can prove difficult to spot the differences as fledglings may be the same size as their parents when they leave their nest but there are some things you can look out for. Don’t depend on fluffy feathers to indicate the age of the bird. Feathers on an adult bird can be fluffy too, especially after they have a wash and fluff them up. You can look for behavioral cues to tell the difference. Young birds may be noisier when calling to their parents and they can be less fearful of humans as adult birds.

How to tell the difference between a nestling and a fledgling?

If a young bird has a lack of feathers or has a fluffy down it is most likely a nestling. Nestlings can sometimes fall out of their nests. If the location of the bird’s nest is known, it can be possible to return them to their nest if they appear strong and healthy. However, parent birds can sense when one of their chicks is dying or sick. In this case, they will push the nestling out of the nest to allow them to focus on their healthy chicks.

Should I help a fledgling on the ground?

Interfering with fledglings can cause more harm than good. It may appear as though the bird has been abandoned. Their parents are most likely watching from nearby or collecting food. You should leave them where they are so their parents can find them. If the young bird has a full covering of feathers, they most likely left the nest on their own and should be left alone as their parents are nearby looking after them.

In a situation where a fledgling is in a dangerous location such as a busy road, it would be best to move them to a safer spot. Ensure you move them as close as possible to where they were found so they can hear their parents call.

Removing a fledgling from the wild will reduce their chances of survival and is not recommended. However, it is a last resort if the fledgling is injured or has definitely been abandoned by its parents.

So, if you do come across a fledgling here’s some things you can do:

  • Stay back – you may have scared the parents away. Watch from a distance and you should spot the parents soon.
  • Move – only if the bird is in a dangerous location. If it’s in your garden, you can place the bird in a higher location such as a hanging basket.
  • If possible, if you have cats try to keep them inside if you spot a fledgling on the ground in your garden.

 

To read more about nesting season in Ireland click here, or to donate to help us protect and support animal welfare by clicking here!

Nesting Season

Nesting Season

Nesting Season Regulations

The 1st of March marks the beginning of nesting season. Meaning hedgerows around Ireland protected by law for most of spring and the entire summer seasons in Ireland. Section 40 of the Wildlife Act 1976, as amended by Section 46 of the 2000 Amendment Act, prohibits the cutting, grubbing, burning or destruction of vegetation. With certain strict exemptions, from 1 March to 31 August, typically relating to roadside hedge cutting for road safety purposes.

Why Nesting Season is Important

Believe it or not but our hedgerows are wonderful habitats. Creating sanctuaries for up to 35 wild bird species, such as robins, wren, blackbirds, and thrush. These birds all nest in our hedges which support a rich diversity of wildlife such as birds, bees, insects, butterflies. This diversity of wildlife helps fight the climate change crisis by breathing in and storing carbon. Hedgerows are also used by barn owls and bats as essential transport corridors. They are essential to our biodiversity which highlights the need to protect them.

Our biodiversity contributes nearly €2.6 billion every year to the Irish economy. This is in the form of ecosystem services such as water/air quality, fertile soil, or pollination. Tree cover in Ireland being the lowest in Europe. Alongside biodiversity loss throughout the country, our hedgerows are a crucial element in protecting our environment.

 

How you can help

Build a Bird Box

Many of our bird species are in decline, even some of the most common birds you spot in your garden. This is mostly down to habitat degradation and due to the way, we use and manage land. So, when it comes down to it, humans are the cause of less natural nesting sites for our wild birds. That’s where the wildlife act comes into play, to protect habitats and nesting sites. There is another action you can do from your home, create new nesting locations in the form of bird boxes. The diagram below can help you build your own nest box, and you can paint or decorate however you like!

 

Place a Bird Box in your Garden

You can put up a nest box at any time of the year, even during or after nesting season. Although if you put it up after March you may need to wait until the following nesting season to see any action in your bird box. But it will give the birds time to scope out and investigate nesting locations for the following spring. If you find that your bird box is not being used for a few seasons perhaps change the location. (Always wait until after August to do this in case, there is a next inside that you were not aware of). Research the best place in your garden to place your bird box, ideally it should be located at least 2m from the ground. You can place it on a fence, tree, or wall, and use a wire strap instead of nailing it to the tree.

 

 

 

Diagram

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