Prevent nests to keep nuisance birds away
By Patti Kumazawa, 412th Test Wing Environmental Management
/ Published February 25, 2013
EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Despite the pleasures of watching birds or hearing their songs, sometimes living in close proximity with birds can be a hassle - ravens get into trash cans, a blackbird might dive bomb the family dog and house finches may start raising their young right next to a shiny new car.
Birds frequent areas near houses, dormitories and work areas like hangars and offices - just about everywhere on base. They sometimes build nests, lay eggs and raise their young in places that pose a problem for people.
But before residents or workers try to clear birds out of home or work areas they need to know that most birds, their nests and young are protected by federal law.
However, that doesn't mean nothing can be done. People can take action to stop a problem before it starts. But residents and facility managers need to act early - meaning before birds get a nest completed. They can block access to areas where birds may want to roost or nest. They can also remove nesting material before the nest is completed and then block access. But once a nest is complete and has eggs or young, it is too late to take action.
Nesting season may start as early as February and can last into July depending on the weather.
The key is to identify areas where birds may nest that would cause a problem and prevent birds from gaining access to those areas. This is often as simple as pruning vegetation or blocking access to a nesting site using wire mesh or a solid surface like wood.
"It's important base residents and employees share the environment with birds because Edwards is home to over 200 species of birds, most of which are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act," said biologist Mark Bratton, who works at Environmental Management.
The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 protects birds, their nests, young and eggs from being killed, moved, collected or harmed in any way without permission from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Some of the most common birds seen near base housing and work areas are Brewer's blackbird, the common raven, the house finch, the house sparrow, the European starling and Say's phoebe. The most common species to nest near housing areas are Brewer's blackbirds, house finches and European starlings. They like to nest on flat surfaces that are partially to fully secluded and high up, like on the front or back porch eaves of a house. They can also be found nesting on the tops of brick walls, in holes left uncovered, attic vents, garage rafters, lighting fixtures and many other places in and around base housing.
Ravens, owls and other raptors often nest on power poles, large trees and tall structures that offer protection from the elements. They sometimes build nests in hangars.
If base residents or facility managers do not want birds to nest in their areas, they can screen attic vents, angle flat surfaces, fill brick holes, make ledges inaccessible and prune vegetation to reduce the amount of suitable nesting habitat.
"The key to discouraging birds from nesting is to be persistent. We often remove nests that are clear of eggs or young and see the birds taking new nesting materials to a new location," Bratton said. "That is why it is important to take measures that discourage birds from nesting prior to and during the early part of nesting season."
It is possible to remove the beginnings of a nest as long as there are no eggs or young in the nest. Once eggs have been laid in a nest, the nest must be left alone until the nest is clear of eggs and young. The time until the young can fly away, or fledge, depends on the species and can take from a few weeks to a few months.
If people find a nest blown to the ground, they can put it back in a tree. "It's an old wives' tale that a mother bird will abandon her babies if the nest is touched by a human," said Bratton. If a dead baby bird that's fallen from a nest is found, it may be thrown away. People should always wash their hands after handling a nest or bird.
Anyone on base may call Environmental Management at (661) 277-1401 for assistance in determining whether or not the nest is active.
For a free video with ideas for bird-proofing your areas, visit the Housing Office at 402 Forbes Ave.