Each spring thousands of birds and squirrels are displaced, injured or killed by homeowners and landscape maintenance professionals who accidentally destroy their nests by pruning trees and shrubs during the nesting season.
You can prevent these tragedies and make a real difference to the well-being of local wildlife by planning your pruning and using caution. Since trees and shrubs remain healthier and more attractive if pruned at the right time (usually not nesting season), you can help your landscape thrive as well.
Most species of Bay Area animals nest in the spring and summer. Hummingbirds begin nesting in January, followed by squirrels and mourning doves in February. The safest time to prune and avoid disrupting nests is late September through December. The most important thing you can do to protect wildlife when pruning is to look before you cut.
If you see a new or occupied nest
Postpone your pruning until the young are grown. Remember to check for nests in snags or standing dead trees before removal—they are prime nesting spots for many kinds of animals.
Do not sneak up on nest sites
Talk, whistle and make noise as you approach the tree. This allows adults to vacate without flying into chain saws or trampling eggs or young.
If you disturb a nest
Place it securely back in the tree or shrub from which is came. Tie it in place if necessary. If the nest is too damaged to return, but the eggs are intact or the nestlings are alive, place the nest in a small box or margarine tub, with holes for drainage. Don't use a berry basket, as little legs can get caught in the mesh. Return that container to the tree as close to the original location as possible. Then, watch from a distance to see if the parents return. This could take several hours—be patient.
If the parents do not return and the nest has babies
Keep the babies warm, dark and quiet, and bring them to our wildlife hospital as soon as possible. Do not attempt to feed the babies.
Thank you for caring. Pruning wisely may seem like a small thing given all the dangers facing our environment and local wildlife. But every small contribution we make protecting the world around us helps improve the quality of life for all living things—including our selves.