It’s nesting season – Don’t reach for those pruning shears!

  • Aug. 14, 2018 3:30 p.m.

Our long hot summer has been rapturously welcomed by some (think of children on our beaches and in water parks), and lamented by those who just can’t take the heat.

Similarly, our feathered friends who make their nests in the trees, bushes, and sometimes in the hanging baskets of our gardens have had a challenging summer.

Birds are pretty good at adapting to the heat – like us, they seek out shade and water. But unlike us, they don’t have sweat glands, so they ruffle their feathers, pant to reduce their body temperature, or even soar a little higher where the air is cooler. We can pack up the tent or go to the mall where it’s air conditioned, but they have to stay and watch the offspring. The nest stays where it is for the duration of the season, while the parents raise their brood – sometimes watching over not just one set of babies, but often a second or third hatching.

And this is where problems can arise. Our gardens are looking withered and dreary, and some of those branches are begging to be cut to make things a little tidier. Unknowingly, we can wreak havoc and tragedy on a little bird family by deciding to prune too soon. Whether with a noisy chainsaw or the simple snip of a branch, we can doom a family to a heartbreaking death.

So MARS asks that you refrain from pruning until the hatching season is over and nests are abandoned; generally between Sept. 15 to Feb. 15 (when nesting season starts again). And when you do decide to tidy up the trees or hedges, check for nests before you get to work. Obviously, toppling a nest to the ground is devastating for a bird family, but the noise associated with whacking away at the branches can also be distressing for them. Depending on the kind of bird family you’re dealing with, they may flee the area for a while, or dive-bomb you to protect the young. Maybe a good thought to keep in mind might be “Don’t prune – procrastinate!”

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The birds will thank you, and MARS will also thank you, for they are often presented with a variety of birds during the nesting season (Feb. 15 to Sept. 15), many of them frail offspring who have lost their parents and homes. The volunteers at MARS are still busy with orphaned fawns, raccoons, larger birds and all manner of wildlife. If the rest of us can sit back and have another lemonade and leave the gardening for a bit longer, it’s a win-win for birds and rescue staff.

And here’s something to think about: it’s an offence under Section 34 of B.C.’s Wildlife Act and under the federal Migratory Bird Convention Act to disturb or destroy an active bird nest.

Interested in learning more about MARS Wildlife Rescue Centre? MARS will be having an open house at their facility in Merville on Saturday, Sept. 22 from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. There will be music; a bake sale; book sale; guided tours (including a sneak peak at our new visitor centre); the ambassador raptors; face painting for the kids and much more. Be sure to save the date.


MARS Wildlife Rescue is a charitable organization founded in 1995. Primarily run by volunteers, it is committed to the treatment and subsequent release of native wildlife that is ill, injured, orphaned or oiled. The vast majority of animals and birds that are in need of care are affected in some manner by human activities.

MARS provides a safe, stress-free environment, for ailing wildlife to recover. MARS also educates the general public about wildlife issues through lectures, displays, workshops, reports and publications. It is also committed to the conservation of wildlife and wildlife habitat.

MARS is dependent upon charitable donations in order to carry out its work. Donations can be made online at

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