The community of Davis supports a magnificent urban forest. This forest is made of trees growing along streets and greenbelts, in parks and on residential and commercial properties.

In addition to the benefits trees provide to the citizens of Davis, the trees provide habitat for the wide variety of wildlife that call Davis home. Maintenance of these trees is often necessary to support tree health and vigor, as well as to protect near-by structures and ensure public safety. However, tree maintenance activity can harm nesting wildlife if not done thoughtfully.

There are many species of birds that nest in the Davis urban forest. Most of these birds build or use existing stick nests on the branches of trees. Some choose to nest in cavities within the tree trunks. Some, like barn owls, often nest in the dead fronds of palm trees.

Birds and their nests are protected by state and federal laws. The breeding season for most species is from March to August. Pruning or tree removal during this time presents a risk of directly killing or injuring birds, their nestlings or eggs. Nesting adult birds may even abandon their eggs or offspring if there is elevated disturbance in or nearby the nest tree.

So, what can we do to maintain our trees without harming wildlife? Timing is important in this case. By simply scheduling tree maintenance during the non-breeding season (September through February), we can ensure the least amount of disturbance to nesting birds. Many tree species become dormant during the fall and winter months, losing their leaves and slowing growth.

Fewer leaves makes it easier to see and avoid old nests in order to preserve them for future use. Slower tree growth means less stress to the tree when limbs are removed.

Tips for wildlife-friendly tree maintenance:

  • Ensure that the tree maintenance or removal is absolutely necessary. Consult an arborist to advise on tree health or public safety concerns.
  • Contact the City’s Urban Forestry program ( to see if any restrictions apply to maintaining the tree. Trees along streets may be owned and maintained by the City, even if they are on private property. Significant or landmark trees are also protected by law.
  • If necessary, tree maintenance or removal should only occur between September and February.
  • Hawks and owls often reuse old stick nests. Avoid removing them if possible.
  • If you must conduct tree maintenance during the spring and summer months, please have a qualified wildlife biologist survey the tree for nests. Do not disturb the tree if nests are present. Nests are protected by state and federal law and destroying them is a misdemeanor.
  • Contact the Davis Wildlife Resource Specialist if you find injured, displaced or dead wildlife 530-757-5686.
  • Contact the Urban Forestry program at 530-757-5633 for more information on tree maintenance and protections.

Community Canopy Tree Give Away Program

The City of Davis recently received a $514,116 Urban & Community Forestry grant from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. This grant will enable the City of Davis to plant 1,000 trees and to develop a 40-year Urban Forest Management Plan.

The trees will be planted in approximately 650 residential locations and 350 public locations along bike paths, green belts and medians. Tree Davis will be aiding in the implementation of the grant by cataloging, tracking and mapping every tree that is planted and will report on the carbon stored, energy savings and environmental and public health benefits.

The Community Canopy program has been created to provide these free trees to homes, businesses, schools and parks throughout the City of Davis. The program will plant and care for the new trees, which will clean our air, cool our homes and create beautiful, relaxing outdoor spaces. To request a free tree for your property from this grant program, please visit

All residential property trees will be planted in the front yard of the property in accordance with the city’s tree ordinance. The recipient will be responsible for watering and care of the tree. Pruning or removal will be the city’s responsibility.

Visit for more information.

— John T. McNerney is a wildlife resource specialist with the city of Davis.

Crossposted from the Davis Enterprise

Published online on September 10, 2019