Tree Working During Nesting Season: The Facts

Many birds nest in trees. It provides a safe space for them to raise their young. This means that you will often find trees packed to the brim with birds during the breeding season.

What happens if you need to carry out a spot of work on trees during the breeding season, though? Let’s take a look, shall we? We are only going to share the facts here. However, do bear in mind that rules can vary ever so slightly between locations. However, broadly speaking, the things that we discuss here will apply. The rules are only going to get tougher, not looser.

What Is The Breeding Season For Birds?

In theory, there isn’t actually a breeding season for birds. Birds can breed at any time of the year. However, the bulk of them will be breeding between March and August, depending on where you live.

For the purposes of this page, you are going to want to try and forget about the whole idea of a breeding season, though. This is because for the purposes of the laws that we will discuss, there is absolutely nothing called a breeding season. It really doesn’t matter when you encounter the birds in trees.

Can You Cut Trees During The Breeding Season?

Yes. There are no legal restrictions on working on your trees or bushes during the breeding season. if there were, then people would barely ever be able to carry out work.

However, there are restrictions on working on a tree or bush that carries a bird’s nest. This is all down to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. This is a federal law.

Now, we know that the name of the law implies that this is something that only applies to migratory birds. However, the definition is loose enough that it can apply to absolutely any bird that is nesting. Many states have introduced their own clarifying laws to make it a bit easier to understand.

While the Migratory Bird Treaty Act covers a lot of different things, it can pretty much be summed up that it is a federal crime to interfere with a bird, eggs, and an active nest.

This means that if you are working on trees at any time of the year, you do need to make sure that you keep an eye on whether there are any birds nesting in there. It is worth noting that some nests can be incredibly small, which means you will need to pay attention to where they are.

We recommend that you only cut trees once you have a solid idea as to whether there are any birds nesting there. They should be easy to spot e.g. birds going in and out of the tree, bird calls, aggressive adult birds if you get a bit too close.

If you start work on a tree and spot a bird’s nest, then you have to stop work immediately. It doesn’t matter if you are not cutting close to the birds. It matters that you are cutting where they live.

If the bird’s nest is not active, and this should be easy to tell, then there are no requirements.

Will Tree Surgeons Cut Trees During The Breeding Season?


Tree surgeons will be able to carry out work on your trees during the breeding season. Again, if they didn’t, they would barely be able to work throughout the year.

However, they will always carry out an inspection of the tree before they start work. Of course, the same rules are going to apply to the tree surgeon as apply to you. If they spot that there is an active bird’s nest, then they are going to need to stop work immediately.

What Can You Do If You Spot Birds Nesting In a Tree When You Want To Cut It?

There isn’t much that you can do. 

Federal permits can be granted in extreme circumstances to move birds. However, simply needing to cut down a tree is not going to be classed as an extreme circumstance. This means that you will need to wait until the breeding season is over and the birds have moved on.

In some cases, you may be able to remove the bird’s nest from a tree if the tree is dangerous e.g. it has been knocked over in a storm. However, you may need to seek for permission for this, depending on where you are located.

The whole reason why you are not allowed to move bird’s nests is that birds think long and hard about where they want their nest to be. These nests are often placed in safe locations where predators cannot harm their young. By moving the bird’s nests, you are essentially moving the birds into a dangerous location. This can completely decimate bird populations.

If you are caught moving birds, then it is a federal charge. This can lead to severe fines or prison time. Just don’t do it.

Are There Any Differences In The Law?


There are some inactive bird nests that you cannot move. These are ones that are made by migrating birds that return to the same nest every single year. 

You can also remove bird nests from invasive species such as the European Starling.

If you are not quite sure which birds are nesting, or whether it is a truly inactive nest, then you will need to contact somebody. This is why it is probably best to work with a reputable tree surgeon. They will have all the knowledge needed to determine whether a bird nest can be moved or not.


Tree work during the nesting season for birds will not stop. However, you will likely need to take greater care when you are working on the trees. This is because there are federal laws that prohibit the destruction or moving of a bird’s nest with very few exceptions. Many people will opt to work with a reputable tree surgeon to ensure that they do not fall foul of these laws.

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