Wildlife Tips for Dog Walkers to Protect Ground-nesting Birds

dogs & wildlife

We are lucky to have rare wildlife species in our area and we need to help protect them. Ground nesting birds are especially vulnerable during the nesting season from March to July. Nightjars, Dartford warblers, lapwing, skylark and woodlark make very well camouflaged nests on the ground and it’s easy for people and dogs to unintentionally stray too close and frighten the adult birds from the nests. Once disturbed, the adults never return to the nest, leaving their chicks to die.

The Wildlife Trust has seen a dramatic decline in some species of birds in recent years. The Trust is working hard to make the conditions just right for them by managing the heathland, but visitors can help ensure the future of these birds in a few simple ways.

Alex Cruickshank, Senior Land Manager from BBOWT Wildlife Trust, explained: “Nightjars are one of the rarest birds in the British countryside. They fly all the way from Africa every summer to lay their eggs on the ground at places like Snelsmore Common.” Summer 2022 saw “four or five nesting nightjar males” compared to none five years before.

In 2022 there were just two nesting skylarks recorded at Greenham Common compared to 32 recorded in a 2009 survey.

1 March – 31 July

The Right to Roam act requires dogs to be on leads (under 2 metres long) when walking on open access land includes mountains, moors, heaths and downs that are privately owned and common land registered with the local council.

As a general rule please keep your dog on a lead when walking in any areas that have long grass, crops or undergrowth where birds might be nesting.

Walkers and their dogs, cyclists, and horse riders can only use the main paths at Greenham & Crookham Commons and Snelsmore Common in Berkshire. Wardens have been brought in to patrol the sites from 1 March until 31 July.

This also reduces the risk of your dog picking up ticks or getting bitten by an adder.

Year round

Please pick up your dog poo as it can spread disease.

When near cattle, sheep or ponies please keep your dog on a lead as livestock can be injured if chased.


Following these simple guidelines you, your dog and local wildlife can enjoy the wonderful countryside we are so lucky to have around us – and now is a fabulous time to get out and enjoy it!


Photo credits:
Lapwing chick – Elliot Lea
Dog walkers – Rob Appleby


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