Field Notes

Nesting Bird Season is Around the Corner – Are You Prepared?

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Dark-eyed junco (Junco hyemalis) ground nest with three eggs and one nestling found on a project site in Santa Rosa, California in June 2023. Photo credit: Sean MacDonald.

It’s that time of year again! Nesting bird season is right around the corner and many development or restoration projects requiring vegetation removal, building demolition, ground disturbance, or even noise disturbance likely will need one or more nesting bird surveys prior to start of construction. Being proactive and working with WRA’s wildlife biologists will help save costs, minimize or avoid schedule delays, and keep your project moving forward on your preferred construction schedule.

Most native birds in the United States, including common species, have baseline protections under both federal and California state law. The federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) prohibits the unauthorized killing, possessing, or trading in many native bird species, including species and populations that are not migratory. The MBTA encompasses whole birds, parts of birds, and bird nests and eggs.  Broadly parallel protections are also provided to nearly all wild birds by the California Fish and Game Code. Raptors (birds of prey; eagles, hawks, falcons, and owls) and their nests have specific protections under state codes, and disturbance that doesn’t directly harm a nest but causes nest abandonment and/or loss of reproductive effort is often considered “take” by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Birds are highly mobile, and species can be habituated to human disturbance and nest on almost any natural or man-made structure, even in gravel parking lots. If birds are not present during a certain season or phase of your project, it may not be safe to assume that your project is in the clear as birds can construct a nest in as little as a few days. In general, the nesting bird season in California runs from February 1 through August 31. Be sure to check your project’s permit requirements as this timeframe can vary by more than a month depending on the government requiring it, especially at the local level. The timing of nesting bird surveys required by a permit will vary significantly as well but are typically needed within 48 hours to 14 days from start of construction.

WRA’s Nesting Bird Survey Program

We’re here for you! WRA has developed a streamlined Nesting Bird Survey Program where our biologists will work with you to ensure your project moves forward while navigating your permit’s unique regulatory conditions as well as the confines of a species’ natural history. We will communicate, and often report on our findings the same day, so your project can start on time. Whether your project requires just one survey or many, our seasoned staff have the experience and understanding to help choose the appropriate level of effort to ensure the best possible project outcomes.  Reach out to WRA today and let us help you streamline your project start-up and operational permit obligations.

Sean MacDonald, Wildlife Biologist E: P: 415.524.7257









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