Letter: Birds in the hedge

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The Independent Culture
Sir: Some blame crows and magpies (Mike Donovan, letters, 29 August) and others will blame domestic cats, squirrels or birds of prey for the decline in bird populations. But without a place for birds to feed or breed these are distractions.

Careful observation of local Devon hedges and management of our own makes it clear to me that thoughtless hedge cutting is a major factor in bird decline.

Many hedges are cut far too early in July or August before finches have fledged or too late in March when thrushes are already sitting. They are cut too often to allow fruiting plants to provide food or for foliage to provide secluded nesting sites. This forces the use of exposed sites which are open to predation.

The constraints imposed by cropping patterns and the need to keep roadside hedges pared back still leave countless miles which, with sensitive management including cutting in mid or late winter and in alternate years, can provide abundant habitat and food.