Michelle Bedford photo. The American robin is one of the first North American bird species to lay eggs, and normally has two to three broods per breeding season, which lasts from April to July.

Winter tree pruning is best for nesting birds

Submitted by Warren Warttig

Special to The Record

You may not have known this, but the beginning of October to the end of February is the best time to trim your shrubs and hedges and prune your trees. This period is the least likely to disturb nesting songbirds, owls, eagles and other birds of prey.

Each year, the Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society (MARS) Wildlife Rescue receives dozens of little fledglings because of people pruning during the bird-nesting season (March to the end of September). Although gardening seems like a distant memory, nesting season for songbirds is quickly approaching so please reach for those pruning shears, power saws and hedge trimmers soon!

For many birds, the nest stays where it is for the duration of the nesting season (or new nests are built nearby). Parents raise their brood – sometimes watching over not just one set of babies, but often a second or third brood.

This is where problems can arise. By late spring parts of our properties are looking withered and untidy. Some of those branches are begging to be cut to make things neat and orderly. By deciding to prune too soon, whether with a noisy chainsaw or the simple snip of a branch, we can cause harm to a bird family. Depending on the kind of bird family you’re dealing with, they may flee the area for a while or dive-bomb you to protect the young or abandon the nest altogether.

A good thought to keep in mind in the spring and summer might be “Don’t prune – procrastinate!”

If you can sit back and have another lemonade and leave the pruning until fall, it’s a win-win for birds and the MARS Wildlife Rescue volunteers and staff.

The birds will thank you, and MARS will also thank you.

If procrastinating isn’t enough, here’s something to think about: it is an offence under Section 34 of B.C.’s Wildlife Act to disturb or destroy an active bird nest (also found under the federal Migratory Bird Conventions Act). So let’s make sure we give the acrobats of the skies a great start to their beautiful, winged and song-filled lives.

Warren Warttig is the president of the MARS Wildlife Rescue

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