Commentary

February 7, 2014

Spring is for the birds

A raven nest at Fort Irwin.

Prepare early to prevent birds from nesting in your attic

Is mid-winter too early to start preparing for the upcoming bird nesting season?

No, it’s the perfect time!

Complaints about unwanted birds at Fort Irwin generally start coming in to the Directorate of Public Works during mid-February each year. The most common complaints are birds nesting in attics or walls of residential housing and rafters of warehouses. While birds are a beautiful and essential part of the Mojave Desert ecosystem, having a bird nest in the place where you live or work can be annoyingly messy and noisy. The area below a bird nest often becomes littered with bird droppings, which can become an unsightly and unhygienic situation. Also, adult birds and nestlings often make quite a lot of noise at the nest especially during the half hour or so before dawn and dusk each day, which can be quite annoying if the nest is in your attic or wall and you are trying to sleep.

So what can you do to prevent birds from building nests in unwanted places around your home or work area? The first step is to examine the exterior of your house or work site. Are there any holes leading into the attic or walls large enough for a bird to enter? Many of the residences in the Fort Irwin housing area have numerous small diameter vent holes leading into the attic. Identify any openings larger than about three inches in diameter. This is all the space many species need to gain access. If unscreened, these holes are the perfect size for a small songbird to enter and build a nest. A second common entry point for a bird to build a nest in a house is the access point for the satellite dish cable. Housing residents should inspect these potential access points on a regular basis and call in a work order as soon as they discover any missing screens on these access points. Prevention is always the best solution. Once you have a bird nest that is causing a problem solutions are limited.

Most birds on Fort Irwin, including their nests and eggs, are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. Unless a federal Waiver is obtained, the MBTA makes it illegal to remove, destroy, or harass a listed bird or its nest regardless of whether the birds’ presence inconveniences human beings. As the spring nesting season approaches, if you suspect that a bird is building a nest in an undesirable location you should request assistance immediately. A wildlife biologist from DPW will respond to determine what species of bird is occupying the nest before removal can be considered. If it is determined to be a protected species then you may not disturb the nest until the proper waivers can be obtained or the baby birds learn to fly (fledge) and leave the nest which generally takes between four to seven weeks, depending on the species. After a nest is deemed “unoccupied” by a biologist, it can be legally removed and destroyed.

To request hole repair or screen replacement for attic or satellite dish holes in the housing area call the Pinnacle Maintenance help line at (888) 419-6499. If you need assistance with a bird related issue at an office or work site call the DPW Environmental Division at (760) 380-5044 or (760) 380-3740. Any emergency requests for assistance with wildlife issues that occur after business hours in cantonment can be coordinated through the Military Police at (760) 380-4444. Emergency assistance with wildlife issues in Fort Irwin’s training areas can be coordinated through Range Operations (760) 380-3878.




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