Regulations on Bird Nests

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Oh no, you’ve found a bird’s nest in the old backyard tree you want to remove! What do you do? There are regulations regarding the moving or destroying of nests, so make sure to do your research before taking action. Here are some of the most important rules to know:

  • The Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) states that it is illegal to “take (kill), possess, import, export, transport, sell, purchase, barter, or offer for sale, any migratory bird, or the parts, nests, or eggs of such bird except as may be permitted under the terms of a valid permit.”
  • It is illegal to move or destroy active nests, which means any nest with eggs or live young in it. If an active nest exists in a dangerous spot, you should contact the US Fish and Wildlife Service for assistance. You are allowed to discourage birds from building a nest in a bad spot by destroying a partially-built, inactive nest, but once eggs or young live in the nest, you cannot move it.
  • Under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, it is illegal to move or destroy Bald Eagle and Golden Eagle nests, even if they are inactive. These nests tend to be quite large, as they are added to every year. If you think a nest that needs to be moved has a chance of belonging to a Bald or Golden Eagle, contact the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
  • Similarly, it is illegal to cover or dig up any ground nest. These are often harder to see than tree nests but leave it alone if you do find one.
  • You cannot replace a nest that you think is damaged. It is best to leave it be and allow the birds to repair it themselves.
  • If you must move an inactive nest, make sure to wear protective gloves and dispose of the nest in a compost bag. Wipe down the area with nine parts water, one part bleach mix after the nest’s disposal.

Remember, sometimes inaction is the best action. Your local birds are very thankful that they got a peaceful upbringing. Happy birdwatching!

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