Found a bird? 707-484-6502 8:30am to 5:30pm
Found a bird? 707-484-6502 8:30am to 5:30pm
Spring and Summer are when many of us begin working on home improvement projects. This time of year also coincides with the nesting season for songbirds. With careful planning and preparation, spring and summer home improvement projects, yard clean-up, garden maintenance, and even travel plans, can be done safely during nesting season without displacing or harming songbird families.
Begin by identifying the areas of planned work and check for nesting activity; continue to monitor those areas leading up to and for the duration of your project. Below are tips to help you safely and humanely prevent nesting in project areas, as well as tips on what to do if you encounter an active nest.
State and federal laws protect our native songbirds and their active nests, eggs, and chicks. Once a nest is established and contains eggs or chicks, it cannot be disturbed, removed, destroyed, or relocated. If you discover an active nest in your planned project area, postpone the work until the babies fledge (leave) the nest. Most songbird eggs take approximately 2 weeks to hatch, and babies will remain in the nest for another 2-3 weeks before they fledge. Please contact us so that we may help you assess the situation.
Uncovered ventilation holes and open dryer vents appeal to cavity-nesting species such as Tree, Violet-green, and Northern Rough-winged Swallows, wrens, and non-native House Sparrows and European Starlings. Check those areas now and confirm the absence of nests before closing up those spaces. Homeowners may not even be aware birds are nesting in those spaces until babies hatch and become vocal. Although it’s difficult for us to imagine, we recognize that baby songbirds' sweet chirps may be a nuisance to some. Please prevent nesting before it becomes a problem for you.
Carports, storage sheds, and other open-access outbuildings are attractive nest sites for Black Phoebes, Barn and Cliff Swallows, Pacific-slope Flycatchers, House Finches, and Bewick’s Wrens. Phoebes and Barn and Cliff Swallows build mud nests on vertical surfaces, support beams, on top of light fixtures, or similar locations where they can secure blobs of mud to build their half cup-shaped and gourd-shaped nests. House Finches and Pacific-slope Flycatchers prefer horizontal surfaces and nooks to build their nest. Wrens are cavity-nesters and will nest in any cavity-like space from old tennis shoes to a junk-filled cardboard box.
If you have spring or summer projects planned for these spaces or simply don’t want birds nesting there, be observant of any bird activity and prevent access before nesting season begins. Keep a light on or play talk radio in the space. Hang Mylar streamers or CDs suspended from fishing line, display fake owls, or hang sheets of fabric over potential nesting sites to deter the birds.
If you have a travel, horse, or boat trailer, or a camper that has been sitting idle over the winter, please check it NOW for nesting songbird activity. Take preventative action before nesting season begins by blocking off areas that are appealing nest locations to our avian neighbors. Remain vigilant with inspections at least every other day throughout the nesting season.
The tongue, kingpin box, and even the wheel wells are common locations used by cavity-nesting species. Other little nooks and ledges are appealing to species such as House Finches and Barn Swallows. Avoid conflict by blocking those areas off to prevent nesting activity. Cover entrances with tarps and block holes and ledges with towels with during the nesting season. For example, a short article in Trailer Life suggested stuffing a cut-up pool noodle inside a fifth-wheeler’s kingpin box - an inexpensive and effective solution!
Open stock trailers are seen as fair game to Barn Swallows and House Finches. Stock trailers can be tricky to exclude birds from because the trailer is mostly open on three sides. Keep birds out of this type of trailer by hanging tarps over the open areas, placing fake owls inside the trailer and checking the trailer a couple times a week for nesting activity.
Check before you mow! Mow early, mow often! These are two mowing mottos to help you keep ground-nesting birds safe during the breeding season.
If your yard maintenance to-do list includes high grass mowing or weed whacking, please be sure to survey the area first for nesting birds, rabbits and hares. Many of our wild neighbors nest on the ground and love grassy areas to raise their families.
Dark-eyed Juncos, Spotted Towhees, and California Quail are some of the bird species who nest directly on the ground - and they love tall grass! Before you mow or weed whack, take a quick walk through the area and check for nesting birds. If you spot a nest or a bird flushes up from the grass as you walk – stop and slowly back away. Take care not to trample the grass around the nest as this can make the nest and its inhabitants vulnerable to predation.
Postpone cutting the vegetation in this area for a few weeks until the babies fledge the nest. Proceed with mowing if you have confirmed the area is free of nesting birds and other wildlife. If this area requires regular mowing throughout the season, plan to mow it on a frequent basis to prevent future nesting activity.
Sonoma County residents: If you have any questions or have accidentally displaced a nest of baby songbirds, please text us at (707) 484-6502.
Vertical surfaces under the eaves of structures appeal to Cliff Swallows, Barn Swallows, and Black Phoebes. Each of these species adhere their mud nests to the wall of a structure just below the eave. They have 2-3 clutches of young during the breeding season. Phoebe nests are occupied March through early July and swallow nests are occupied April through early September.
Phoebes and swallows reuse their nests from the previous year. Their old nests are likely occupied now with eggs or tiny hatchlings. If you do not wish to host swallow or phoebe families on a structure this year, you will need to wait until fall or winter to safely remove the nests. If birds are attempting to build new nests on a structure, please call us for guidance.
For more information and advice about preventing conflicts with nesting swallows, please see our Living with Swallows brochure.
Trimming trees, intense pruning, and clearing brush is best left for fall and winter when there is no risk of displacing nesting songbirds. Songbirds are masters at concealing their nests, which helps keep them safe from predators. Their well-camouflaged nests are also difficult for the human eye to detect. If you begin trimming, pruning, or clearing vegetation and discover an active nest, you must cease the work immediately. If emergency tree trimming is necessary, please consult the links below before the work begins. Always check for nesting songbirds before you begin trimming and pruning vines and hedges.
Decorative wreaths on doors and in hanging plants on the porch or patio are favorite nesting spots for House Finches, Mourning Doves, and occasionally, American Robins. In our experience, most community members are thrilled to have birds nesting in those places but become increasingly concerned about disturbing the birds when needing to water the plants or use the door.
To water the plants, place ice cubes on top of the soil on the opposite side of the nest. This keeps moisture away from the nest but hydrates the plant. To prevent baby birds from prematurely leaving a nest located in a wreath on a door, refrain from using the door until the babies fledge or relocate the wreath before birds nest in it.
Chimneys are frequently used by Vaux’s Swifts during the nesting season. These migratory aerial insectivores once nested in hollowed old-growth trees, but the destruction of their historic nesting sites forced them to adapt to alternative structures. Chimneys are now their primary nesting habitat in our area. We know of several community members who understand the importance of nesting habitat for these special birds and remove their chimney caps in spring to welcome and give access to the swifts. At approximately 7-10 days of age, the babies become extremely vocal at all hours of the day and night. If you do not wish to host a family of Vaux’s Swifts, be sure to cap your chimney before mid-April.