Healthy Trees, Healthy Birds

Ventura County is home to over 240 Species of birds; more than just pigeons, sparrows and crows! 243 species live, migrate or pass through Ventura County each year.

Birds nest in a variety of spots: tree branches,cavities, bushes, on the ground, or on the sides and eaves of buildings. Nests are often in hidden, hard–to-spot locations. 

Types of local tree nests:

 Stick or cup-shaped nests    Cavity nest
hummingbird nest
Anna's Hummingbird (© Mimi Damwyk)


woodpecker nest
Hairy Woodpecker © Jim Williams
     
Mud nest   Hanging nest
BARS nest
Barn Swallows © Laura Erickson
  oriole nest
Baltimore Oriole ©Barry Kant

 

Many birds raise their young between February 1st and August 31st, the time of year when people tend to trim trees and clear bushes. Severely cutting, thinning and topping greenery such as trees, and shrubs in the spring and summer can destroy nests and eliminate valuable nest sites, and kill nestling and fledgling birds.

Why Protect Birds’ Nests?
First, birds are protected under the law. Second, birds provide numerous beneficial activities, such as eating thousands of insects, which may eliminate some of the need for pesticides. They also disperse seeds, ensuring plant health and biodiversity. Finally, many bird populations nationwide are plummeting primarily due to the impact of human activities. Birds are creatures of the earth, with whom we share this planet and its limited resources.
Our positive actions can make the difference in ensuring their long-term survival.

Before You Trim
Avoid the nesting season completely-if possible schedule tree trimming between September and January. During any season, carefully inspect the area before beginning your operations. It’s best to, and it’s legally required to, hire a trained biologist to do a nest survey of larger areas or sensitive habitats with native plants, dense brush, stream-sides and stands of trees. Many nests are difficult even for experts to spot. The ANSI A300 pruning standard calls for a clearly defined objective before pruning is undertaken. We recommend that maintaining habitat for birds be included in your plan.

How to Detect Nests
Look on the ground for concentrations of white-colored droppings, and then check the vegetation above. This may indicate a roost site or a possible bird nest. As you walk through an area, look for birds flying out of vegetation close to you and scolding you. They may have a nest nearby. Sit quietly and watch for birds bringing nestmaterial or food repeatedly to one place. Birds tend to place their nests on the undersides of the tree canopy and where branches join together. Some birds nest in tree cavities or even under a flap of bark. 

If You Find a Nest (While You Are Trimming)
Reschedule! Cease work that could disturb or destroy the nest. Keep 50 feet away from songbird nests, and 500 feet away from raptor (hawk or owl) nests. Do not move the nest. Contact a qualified biologist or the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) to find out how to protect the nest. Ideally the nest should be left undisturbed until the young have left on their own. The CDFW or the Western Foundation of Vertebrate Zoology may be able to give you an estimate of how long until eggs hatch and nestlings leave.

Why Nests Cannot Be Moved
Parent birds choose a nest location for specific reasons such as proximity to food and water, and protection from predators and the elements. If the nest is disturbed, parents may abandon it along with their eggs or young. Local, state and federal laws prohibit taking, destroying or damaging nests. Moving a nest requires a special permission from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and is usually only granted for human health and safety reasons.

Pruning Considerations
Removing internal tree limbs results in lion-tailing, over-thinning, and increases the hazards potential for a tree. Birds utilize internal branches and foliage. Trees and shrubs should be pruned in a manner that considers the time of year, incorporates a pre-work inspection to check for nesting, and maintains branch density. In general, less pruning is better for birds. Pruning using these considerations is consistent with proper pruning that maintains tree health and safety while providing habitat for the birds that depend upon the trees and shrubs.

 

Other Resources and Links

Wildlife Rehabilation:
Ojai Raptor Center
California Wildlife Center 

Tree Trimming Tips:
Tree Care and Bird Safety

Native Plant Information and Nurseries:
California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW)
Matilja Nursery