We Can Learn to Live With Wildlife
Birds stage coo d'état during nesting season
By Sandy Beck
Photo by Rosie LeRoy


Florida is having growing pains. But even with a daily net increase of 1,000 citizens our state does its best to accommodate new residents with homes, schools and roads.

Accommodation: The willingness to adjust actions in response to the needs of others. What a civilized, thoughtful concept.

However, as more natural areas are bulldozed, people and wildlife find themselves in increasingly frequent conflicts over living space.

March 30th, U.S. Department of Agriculture agents shot and killed a mated pair of red-shouldered hawks at the Villas of Grand Cypress Golf Resort in Orlando. (Orlando Sentinel Article)

April 13th, in Hernando County, U.S.D.A. agents climbed a homeowner's backyard pine tree, reached into the nest and removed a red-shouldered hawk baby while its helpless parents watched. (Orlando Sentinel article)

The birds at both locations had been dive-bombing people who came too close to their nests.

All native wild birds have legal protection. It is a federal offense to kill, harass or possess a wild bird or its nest without federal and state permits. But golf course owners convinced officials that their employees and guests were in harm's way. The homeowners also made their case.

"They were killed because they were inconvenient," Lynda White, coordinator of the Florida Audubon EagleWatch program in Maitland, told an Orlando Sentinel reporter.

Human-wildlife confrontations increase in the spring and summer when birds and animals, desperate to protect and feed their young, are more visible. So what can you do to accommodate hawk, owl or mockingbird neighbors concerned about your close proximity to their babies?

Jon Johnson, executive director of the St. Francis Wildlife Association in Tallahassee says, "In my 30 years of experience, there hasn't been a single situation - whether it involved birds, snakes or mammals ¬- where we couldn't find an alternative to killing the animal."

Last year, a mockingbird chose to build her nest in a tree next to the front entrance of the Tallahassee Police Department. The agitated mother swooped down and hit anyone who walked beneath her nest.

After assessing the situation, Jon told them that it wouldn't last long, only until the babies could fly and leave the nest. He suggested that they use yellow tape to detour employees and visitors to an entrance further away from her tree. The accommodation worked. One month later, the family had flown the coop and TPD was able to use both doors again.

Dive-bombing birds can be a frightening experience, and a raptor with inch-long talons can be intimidating, but it's usually just a bluff to scare off intruders.

Accommodations that work
Make a swath of land around the nest off-limits until babies fledge (fly away).
- Carry an umbrella or wear a hat.
- Wear eyes on the back of your head. No kidding. Birds are discouraged from striking when they are being watched, so they usually swoop from behind. Download and print a large pair of eyes and tape it to the back of your hat.

What does not work (and is illegal)
Do not harass or throw objects at birds. This only makes them more aggressive and defensive.
- Do not move or destroy nests. The birds may re-nest and breed again.

Remember, like us, these birds are doing their best to protect their young, and your accommodation is only a temporary thing. Rather than getting your feathers ruffled, feel fortunate that you live in a place where you can awaken to a symphony of birdsong and observe nesting behavior right outside your front door. Just don't forget to wear your hat.

St. Francis Wildlife

The Wild Classroom