During the spring and summer, one of the worst things you can do is begin trimming a shrub around your home before checking to see if it harbors a bird nest. 

       The reason of this is common backyard birds such as cardinals, brown thrashers and mockingbirds routinely nest in the thick shrubs growing around most homes.  If you do not take this simple precaution, you stand the very real chance of exposing eggs or hatchlings to the weather and predators. 

       A few days ago, I decided to trim a loropetalum that had grown so tall it shrouded a window. However, before I cut the first branch I peered into the loropetalum’s thick foliage.  There suspended between the plant’s tangled branches was a cardinal nest. 

       At first glance, the nest seemed to be little more than a tangled mass of twigs.  However, as I looked more closely I could see that the female cardinal that had built this nest had also used a number of other building materials such as leaves, grasses, and strips of bark to fashion her nest.

       The nest contained only one bluish white egg marked with brownish splotches.  A gaping hole in the fragile egg indicated that a bird probably destroyed the egg.  A number of birds will peck holes in the eggs of another bird.  It was clear this nest was abandoned.

       The fate of this nesting attempt was not surprising.  It has been estimated that predators destroy upwards of 75% of eggs and young found in open nests such as this.  In the case of the northern cardinal, studies have revealed only 15-37% of all their nests fledge young.

       With such a low success rate, one might wonder why cardinals are so abundant around our homes.  One reason might be cardinals nest as many as four or five times a year.

       Since the nest in my loropetalum as was obviously abandoned, and cardinals typically nest in a different location each time they renest, I went ahead and trimmed the shrub. 

       On the other hand, if I had found the nest contained undamaged eggs or hatchlings, I would have put off my trimming for another day.

       With nesting cardinals facing such overwhelming odds trying to raise a brood of young, the last thing I want to is increase their chances of failure.  I know you feel the same way.


  1. Hi! Thank you for the wonderful work that you do. I was hoping you could help me out with this question. So, last year I found out that my neighborhood complex was going to cut down a tree with an active bluejay nest in it, but even though I sent pictures and video proof to them they insisted on doing it anyway, and only relented because I told them repeatedly they could get in trouble and they were afraid to get fined or in trouble. Now they want to cut that tree along with a bunch of others soon and I want to make sure the animals are protected. First I thought I will try to convince them to cut when it is not nesting season, but then I read that many birds nest outside the nesting season plus squirrels nest in the winter so I thought maybe that is not enough. Then I thought maybe I can try to observe the tree and see if I see any nests beforehand but then I read that some nests like hummingbird nests can be really tiny and hard to recognize from just looking at the tree, plus I read that many animals nest in tree cavities, which I guess would be hard to tell if they are occupied if they are very high up. Then I thought that maybe we could ask the tree company to look on the branches and in any tree cavities because if they are high up they might be able to see better, but I am not sure if they would be willing to do that plus I was concerned that if someone peers into a tree cavity and there is a nest in there could it scare the parents off and leave the babies abandoned? Sorry for the long winded message, I just really don’t know what to do and was hoping you might have some advice/suggestions. Thank you so much!

    • Nisha,

      The laws governing the protection of bird nests is enforced by both state and federal wildlife agencies. If you think a violation has/is occurring contact the state wildlife enforcement agency (for Georgia -770=918-6408) and/or the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Law Enforcement Office (1-844-397-3477).

      I am sure these folks can explain the law and advised you of your options. Not being trained in law enforcemnt, I am not qualified to interpret these laws.

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