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Trusted local news leader for Prescott area communities since 1882
12:51 PM Thu, Oct. 18th

Ask the Contractor: Bird nest removal not always allowed

Birds do not always build their nests in safe or suitable locations; such was the situation that recently occurred with a local contractor. An addition to a home was scheduled. The homeowner noticed birds flying in and out of a roof tile and called the contractor. The contractor, being a “bird nerd” and not knowing what to do, called YCCA. Myself, being a “bird nerd” and not knowing bird habits, said “call Eric at Jay’s Bird Barn.”

Here is the scoop on birds, nests, and what to do:

What does a contractor do or for that matter what does anyone do that discovers a bird nest that might be interfering with construction, interfering with home enjoyment, ingress or egress? Before removing bird nests, it is important to understand local laws involving wildlife removal as well as whether removing the nest is safe for the birds. There are federal bird nest removal laws.

It is a federal offense and is illegal to remove or destroy any active nest from a native bird species, defined as a nest with eggs or brooding adults in it. If the nest has been abandoned or no eggs have yet been laid, it can be removed or destroyed as needed. Nests of invasive birds, such as house sparrows or European starlings, however, are not protected.

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, is a United States federal law, first enacted in 1916 in order to implement the convention for the protection of migratory birds between the United States and Great Britain. The statute makes it unlawful without a waiver to pursue, hunt, take, capture, kill or sell birds listed therein (“migratory birds”). The statute does not discriminate between live or dead birds and also grants full protection to any bird parts including feathers, eggs and nests. More than 800 species are currently on the list.

Most bird nests are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. This law says: “No person may take (kill), possess, import, export, transport, sell, purchase, barter, or offer for sale, any migratory bird, or the parts, nests, or eggs of such bird except as may be permitted under the terms of a valid permit…” Under the MBTA it is illegal to destroy a nest that has eggs or chicks in it or if there are young birds that are still dependent on the nest for survival. It is also illegal for anyone to keep a nest they take out of a tree or find on the ground unless they have a permit issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Some exceptions to the act, known as the eagle feather law, regulate the taking, possession, and transportation of bald eagles, golden eagles, and their “parts, nests, and eggs” for “scientific, educational, and depredation control purposes; for the religious purposes of American Indian tribes; and to protect other interests in a particular locality.” Enrolled members of federally recognized tribes may apply for an eagle permit for use in “bona fide tribal religious ceremonies.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issues permits for otherwise prohibited activities under the act. These include permits for taxidermy, falconry, propagation, scientific and educational use, and depredation, an example of the latter being the killing of geese near an airport, where they pose a danger to aircraft.

Before removing any bird nest, determine whether or not the removal would be legal according to local, regional and national wildlife laws. Most birds are protected species and tampering with a nest could lead to hefty fines or other penalties. In the United States, for example, it is illegal to remove or destroy any active nest from a native bird species, defined as a nest with eggs or brooding adults in it. If the nest has been abandoned or no eggs have yet been laid, it can be removed or destroyed as needed. Nests of invasive birds, such as house sparrows or European starlings, however, are not protected.

In certain circumstances it may be necessary and desirable to remove bird nests, both for safety and convenience. Proper reasons to remove nests include:

• The nest has been abandoned after the breeding season has ended.

• The nest is unused and has become dilapidated and unsafe for future use.

• The nest is in a bird house that needs to be cleaned out for future residents.

• The nest is in a dangerous location and brooding birds could become stressed.

In most cases, it is only after the nesting season has ended and the birds have moved on that nests can and should be removed. If the birds have built their nests in poor locations, however, the nest may need to be removed earlier to safeguard both the adults and the chicks they hope to raise. Unsafe locations typically include:

• Near a door or busy walkway

• Inside a gutter or drainage pipe

• Inside dryer vents

• On equipment, such as a grill or lawn mower

• Inside a chimney

• Balanced on a car bumper or tire

If birds have built their nests in these types of locations, it is best to remove the nest and discourage the birds from rebuilding in the same spot. If the dangerous nest already has chicks or eggs, it is best to contact a bird rescue organization to see if they can take in the baby birds until they are mature enough to leave the nest. It may also be possibly to move the nest to a safer location nearby. The parent birds will return to the nearby nest to continue raising their young, and after the fledglings have left, steps can be taken to keep the adults from reusing the unsafe location.

Some nests should not be removed regardless of the circumstances unless the proper wildlife authorities are consulted or there are no other options to keep the nesting birds safe. These nests include:

• Endangered birds that are unlikely to build a new nest if disturbed.

• Raptors or other large birds that will reuse the same nest for many years.

• Natural cavities that would be destroyed in order to remove the nest.

• Any nest in early summer that may be reused for additional broods.

When it is safe and appropriate to remove a bird’s nest, care must be taken so the nest is properly removed.

Double-check the nest for any remaining eggs or chicks, and wait to be sure the healthy birds have all left the nest before beginning any removal.

Wear gloves when handling the nest to protect against contamination from mites, bacteria or other parasites that may have infected the nest.

If possible, add the discarded nest to a compost pile or else dispose of it in a plastic bag so predators are not attracted to the nesting area where young birds may still be vulnerable.

Clean the area where the nest was located, using a solution of one part chlorine bleach to nine parts water. Note: It is not necessary to clean a tree or bush where a nest was located.

If you do not want birds reusing the same area after you have removed a nest, it will be necessary to take steps to deter birds from rebuilding. Changing the shape of the surface where the birds constructed their nest – by adding a board or spikes to make it less welcoming – will help discourage nesting. Putting a cat, snake or owl decoy near the nesting area can give the illusion of danger to discourage birds. Vigilance at the beginning of the nesting season will be critical, and removing nests before they are completed will help encourage unwise birds to move to a different area.

Although some nests are remarkable, it is against the law for a person without a permit to possess one for any reason.

Nest removal permits are usually only issued when the particular nest is causing a human health or safety concern or the birds are in immediate danger. It is usually required that you wait for the nest to become inactive before destroying it.

Outcome of the nest in the roof tile … it was determined that the birds were house finches. Both adult birds spent several days flying in and out of the tile until a few days ago when now both birds are in the nest area for most of the day. The thought is the house finches are laying eggs or have already laid the eggs. The contractor and homeowner have not able to determine if there are eggs in the nest because of the nest location up in the tile.

The homeowner and contractor have opted to delay this portion of the addition and wait until the birds have left the nest to start their flight in life.

Remember to tune in to YCCA’s Hammer Time twice each weekend Saturday and Sunday at 7 a.m. on KQNA 1130 AM/99.9 FM or the web kqna.com. Listen to Sandy and Mike talk about the construction industry and meet your local community partners and contractors.