Arborist and park staff protect nesting woodpeckers from destruction

image001Trying to spot and protect nesting birds in spring while trees are trimmed is much like holding a candle in a doorway when the wind is determined to extinguish the flame.  Nesting birds don’t want to be found. And the birds don’t know that federal and state laws are designed to protect them. But the arborist or tree care provider is supposed to do so even if those that hire them are unaware of the laws.

Tree care providers and land managers have a complex, sometimes love-hate relationship with birds.  All too frequently, between February and August when most birds nest, each gets in the other’s way of doing their job. A good outcome for birds and humans hinges on two things. Timing and training. One recent case served as a model for others.

In May 2016 Master Arborist, Susan Sims, from Sims Tree Health Specialists, Inc was called to evaluate two dead trees in Riverbed Park in Oroville, CA.  General Manager, Apryl Ramage, of Feather River Recreation and Park District suspected the trees needed to be removed. Staff had no idea that Acorn Woodpeckers (pictured below) had a history of nesting inside the trees and were doing so at the moment.  The fact is the  most people are unaware that over 80 species of birds nest in the trunks and limbs of dead trees. This makes the nesting habitat of those species particularly vulnerable to chain saws. Susan explained the laws and options to Apryl.

IMG_2379By taking precautionary measures such as installing a sign and temporary fencing around the trees, the Park District protected the nesting birds and public safety for the present. The trees can be removed when the birds leave, or perhaps allowed to remain for a while longer to benefit the birds.   Barring overriding conditions, this may be accomplished by reducing its height and removing IMG_7494hazardous limbs. Why bother?  Because standing dead trees add habitat value to the urban forest and are in short supply.

But Feathery Parks and Recreation District went a step further. With a bird tragedy and public embarrassment averted, they authorized three Feather River Recreation and Parks Department employee to attend a Wildlife Aware certification class offered by Sims Tree Learning Center  The training covers bird protection regulations, how to locate nesting birds, and reduces the chance that active nests will be accidentally destroyed.  Kevin Brazda, Park Supervisor, was one of the employees attending the training. When it ended he reward Susan with, “This class changed your world at how you look at trees!”

thumb_Acorn-Woodpecker-female-feeding male nestling Jim Burns_1024That’s a win-win outcome for birds, trees, tree care providers and property managers! It’s all in the timing and in the training! Congratulations to all concerned!

To learn about a California-based partnership to improve tree care for birds please visit


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