Fort McCoy News July 26, 2013

Caution recommended to approach bird nests

Migratory bird nests are being constructed near Fort McCoy facilities, and employees need to know when nests can be removed and when they must be left alone.

Tim Wilder, Fort McCoy endangered species biologist, said nests, generally, can be removed if they contain no eggs or young (fledgling) birds.

Photo for nests article
A robin watches over eggs in a nest built near the outdoor courtyard at McCoy's. Nests that don't have eggs or fledgling birds can be safely removed. Photo by Rob Schuette

"Once nests contain eggs or young birds, they can't be disturbed except in cases of human safety or health," Wilder said. "So, if you see a nest being built where it may become a problem — with no eggs or young birds in it — you can take it down."

Some bird species or individual birds can be aggressive to humans, especially when there are eggs or young birds in the nest.
Wilder said people who have a concern can call the Help Desk at 608-388-4357 to report nests.

Bird species that might build nests on or around buildings on Fort McCoy include robins, barn swallows, cliff swallows, etc.
Wilder said the good news is that it's generally uncommon for migratory birds to build their nests on newer Fort McCoy structures.

Many of the older buildings have a small overhang constructed over the entrances. These are a favorite location for barn swallows to construct a nest. These overhangs entrances are generally not included when new facilities are constructed.

Otherwise, the best strategy is to stay away from nests that contain eggs or young birds in them.

Wilder said this usually takes about four to five weeks and the young will fledge from the nest. At that time the nest can be removed.

The only way to remove nests with eggs or young birds in them is to have authorized personnel obtain a permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, he said. Removal of a nest with eggs or young is always the last resort.

David Beckmann, installation wildlife biologist, said in most cases the habitat is manipulated to deter the birds from selecting the site for nesting and/or feeding in the first place. A permit would be issued to remove the birds, primarily larger birds such as geese, etc., that are near the Sparta-Fort McCoy Airport. There always are concerns with birds and aircraft.

"The big concern is that geese may establish nests and return to the area year after year," Beckmann said. "If the habitat looks good for nesting and raising young, it may attract the adults and their offspring to the area in future years."

Wilder said the hope is that no birds will construct nests near buildings on a recurring basis. Removing nests in a timely manner will hopefully discourage them from nesting on or near buildings.