No Harm No Fowl: St. Francis Center Main Entrance Yields to Protected Seagull Nests

Use Entrance By Aquatic Center
By MARIA SCANDALE | Jun 06, 2018
Photo by: Ryan Morrill

The seagulls are ruling the roost at the St. Francis Community Center in Brant Beach. Nothing can happen with needed roof repair until eggs hatch from any occupied nests over the front entrance, now closed.

People are using a back lobby entrance by the aquatic center in the meantime. All of the center’s programs are open.

The mandatory regard for the shorebirds is due to a 1918 federal law and later reforms to it, and some states have their own rules as well.

Center Executive Director Wendy Saunders said several nests were discovered when contractors began inspecting the roof to prepare for repair.

“We have a leak in our roof, so we need to get a new roof. The problem is, all the contractors are busy and we can’t have it done until September,” she said.

“In the meantime, we’re having to take some smaller measures  – weatherproofing, things like that – so we can open up the front lobby. The roofers unfortunately found some seagull nests up there, so we can’t disturb them. We can’t do anything until they hatch and fly the nest.”

Saunders said the encounter is “something new” in the management history at the center.

“We tried to find out what we were supposed to do.” They tried a pest control agency, but they didn’t deal with that issue.

Center operators did find out that “you can’t disturb seagull nests,” but Saunders said that even if a law didn’t apply, “we don’t want to disturb them, either.”

The protection laws were definitely a surprise to some center patrons this week, but all were glad to hear that “there is no break in any services,” as Saunders summarized.

“We have business as usual. All of our programs are up and running,” the director said, although the Human Concerns office is relocated within the building, and the counseling service is using a couple of outpost locations.

Although the director did not specify the projected cost of the upcoming roof repairs, she said the amount is “large.” Center patrons who wish to “can make a donation at any time and specify that it is for roof repairs, and we would love that. Or they can donate in person.”

What’s Up With Laws

On Feathered Friends?

So, for those who find it hard to believe that the common seagull is protected by law, we did some quick research.

An online search will lead to, for one, a bluebird-lovers’ blog calling out the warning about disturbing the nests of other native birds. Says that resource, Sialis, “Many people do not know that the Migratory Bird Treaty Act makes it illegal to disturb the nest of any native bird without a permit” (with a few exceptions such as house sparrows or European starlings). Permits are seldom granted.”

One non-local pest control website added, “Many birds commonly found in New Jersey are covered under this act, such as songbirds, shorebirds, crows, swallows, and many more.”

The Reeves Law Group website was another of many sources. “The federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 makes it illegal to destroy or disturb nests with birds or eggs in them. This means if you find a nest that is active, unless you get a permit to do so (not so easy), you legally have to wait the four to six weeks in which it usually takes young birds to migrate before you can remove the nest. On top of that, states can have their own regulations, too.”

A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service “frequently asked questions” page instructs readers that robins nests built under porch eaves are off-limits as well. “It is illegal to remove or attempt to move the nests while there are eggs or young in the nest. However, once the young have left the nest you can remove the nest from the area.”

The 1918 law was created to prohibit pursuing, killing, selling and shipping migratory birds or their nests or eggs (ladies’ fashion once promoted hats adorned with entire dead birds).

“In accordance with the Migratory Bird Treaty Reform Act of 2004, we included all species native to the United States or its territories,” states the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

By law, it doesn’t matter if the nesting birds interfere with people’s pursuits or cause a mess.

The Sialis site says it is illegal to remove or move active nests, even if they are in an inconvenient location; the babies create piles of poop underneath the nest (like barn swallows); and they build an unsightly nest and drop pigeon and rat remains underneath the nest.

The St. Francis Center situation is less dramatic, and everyone involved is working around it.

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