PHOTO: ALECIA SMITH
VAS Conservation Committee has a lead role in directing environmental activities of our chapter by selecting priorities for action and informing members and the public on conservation issues facing our natural world. The committee also aims to help monitor governmental agencies, especially those with planning and approval authority to identify projects or actions that might threaten birds or their habitat, by attending council meetings and monitoring agendas when controversial projects or broad planning actions such as General Plan amendments and revisions to Local Coastal Plans are on the agenda.
FALL CONSERVATION CAMPAIGN
BACKYARD BIRDS: WHERE CONSERVATION BEGINS
Nearly 3 billion birds have vanished from North America’s skies in the past 50 years. Ever-expanding cities and suburbs have played a significant role in this loss. However, people who live in cities can give birds back some of what they’ve lost by trimming trees, bushes, and ground cover in the fall instead of spring, when they are nesting and raising their young.
This campaign highlights the critical role that urban and suburban environments play in the survival of birds, which are an integral part of our ecosystem. At least 175 bird species breed in Ventura County, many of which build nests in trees or bushes. Birds that nest in shrubs and trees in cities include a diverse mix from the very small, such as hummingbirds, to the very large, such as the great horned owl and other birds of prey. Numerous songbirds also nest at various heights in shrubs and trees, including the yellow warbler, lesser goldfinch, American goldfinch, house finch, lazuli bunting, and many others, enriching neighborhoods with their color and song.
Many bird species find their homes in urban and suburban areas, and understanding their nesting habits is crucial for their conservation. The Ventura Audubon Society, a dedicated advocate for bird protection, provides valuable insights into landscaping practices that can help create and maintain vital nesting habitats for these feathered friends.
Nesting Seasons Vary - While many bird species breed between March 1 and August 31, some, including hummingbirds, owls, and hawks, may nest at any time of the year. To support all birds, the Ventura Audubon Society recommends tree trimming and major landscaping projects occur from Sept 15 - Jan 1 of each year using the following thoughtful approach to vegetation pruning:
For urban and suburban areas, it's advised to schedule vegetation trimming between September 15 and January 1. This timing helps protect nesting birds while ensuring the health and aesthetics of your landscape. Remember to remove only what is necessary and refrain from cutting more than 25% of the tree crown. Keeping the tree as intact as possible provides additional nesting opportunities and serves as a refuge for birds to rest, hide from predators, and find food.
SHRUB AND TREE GROWTH
Letting shrubs and trees them grow naturally, reaching their climax height and density, enhances bird nesting and foraging habitat. Routine thinning does not necessarily improve the health of a tree or shrub and destroys their natural form and grace. In addition to fostering bird-friendly landscapes, this approach also provides more cooling shade and privacy for people in urban and suburban areas.
Not all birds nest in trees. Many ground-nesting birds such as the dark-eyed junco, song sparrow, California towhee, spotted towhee, and orange-crowned warbler are found in Southern California cities and suburbs. Their nests are often concealed in hidden locations making it crucial to manage groundcover carefully.
To protect ground-nesting birds, consider trimming ground cover like ivy in the fall or early winter, enough to avoid the need for later springtime trimming. Alternatively, you can choose not to trim and allow the ground cover to flourish, providing more nesting and foraging opportunities for these birds.
It's vital to be aware that destroying nests during nesting season violates state and federal laws, including the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA). To ensure you're in compliance, for big jobs hire arborists certified by the International Society of Arborists when seeking tree trimming or gardening services.
By adopting these practices and promoting awareness of them, we can collectively contribute to the well-being of our feathered neighbors and the preservation of biodiversity in our communities. Let's make our urban and suburban spaces more welcoming to birds and help protect their habitats for generations to come.
Quotes from Ventura Audubon:
David Wappler, a wildlife biologist and Conservation Committee member, emphasizes the importance of this approach, stating, "By simply scheduling truly needed vegetation trimming in the fall and early winter, property managers, tree-trimming businesses, city crews, homeowners, and others can help protect and create important nesting bird habitat."
Ventura Audubon Society President Rachel Ameche adds, "The fall tree trimming approach champions the well-being of nesting birds and advances our commitment to biodiversity."