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Animals

Bird nests stop Montecito tree removal – for now

MONTECITO, Calif. - Upset passersby and some rethinking by a tree trimming company have changed the timeline for the removal of a tall eucalyptus tree on Channel Drive in Montecito.

Earlier this week, the project was underway with the Montecito Tree Care company crews carving off branches on the tree when concerned residents said nesting birds were "frantic."

Many phone calls were made to wildlife experts and eventually the project was stopped.

The Montecito Tree Care company said it will wait until the nesting season is over. It is unknown if the nests are active. Company officials said they had been in touch with the department of Fish and Wildlife.

The birds are double-crested cormorants known for forming stick nests built high in trees – in this case – next to the ocean where they can spot fish and make dives for food.

The cormorants' arrival is new to this area. The tree on the corner of Channel Drive and Butterfly Lane is one of two that have attracted the birds. The other is on the property of the dormant Four Seasons Biltmore hotel.

The tree getting trimmed Wednesday is on private property. It is also in an area where large eucalyptus trees have come down in recent years, breaking fences, crushing cars and blocking the street.

Emotions have run high in person and on social media about taking the tree out whether the birds were there or not. It's clearly being stopped because of the bird protection and concerns.

Montecito Tree Care says it works with the Wildlife Care Network if it has nests or baby animals where projects are taking place.

The crews said they will come back after nesting season and coordinate with the property owner on the appropriate timing to take the tree down.

Another tree nearby without nests has been cut down, and was not said to be harming an active bird habitat.

The tree with the nests has had some trimming but the branches with nests remain.

It looms with a non-eucalyptus look at this point. Because of the bird's bodily functions, the limbs are white and the leaves are gone. The ground below is also no longer the color of black asphalt and there's a smell.

These birds recently came here at the same time cormorants are being discouraged from the trees off the nearby Summerland coastline where a freeway widening project is taking place.

There, streamers and colored balls have been placed in the tree to get the birds to nest elsewhere during the freeway work. Without this, biologists say, the bird issue could cause a delay of one year and a cost of $10 million.

It's not known if these are the same birds, just relocated, but it is happening at the same time.

The cormorant population in North America is also on the rise.

Environment / Lifestyle / Santa Barbara - South County
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John Palminteri

John Palminteri is senior reporter for KEYT NewsChannel 3. To learn more about John, click here.

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