Adventures in Ethics and Science

I need to call on the collective wisdom of the internets to address an issue in my back yard.

We have this tree in our back yard. It’s a pretty awful tree. It was probably a living Christmas tree that the people who lived here before us planted, but it’s in a really bad location (from the point of view of being able to use the rest of the yard sensibly), and it’s ugly, and it’s also sharp and pointy.

We want it gone. Indeed, finally, after about a year of planning, we are ready to have it removed (replaced with a Fuyu persimmon tree, in a slightly different location) as part of a major back yard improvement project. Work is scheduled to start Monday.

But this week, a complication presented itself:

i-d95a1cd6505c3b99d620b378f5b42796-UninvitedNest.jpg

That’s right, a nest with three eggs. I want that tree gone, but I’m not made of stone.

So, here’s where I need your advice: Do any of you have experience successfully moving a nest full of eggs? (Success here would require that the mama bird not be scared away from the relocated nest and that the eggs have a reasonable chance of hatching.) If so, what was your methodology? (Describe it in as much detail as you can remember. Don’t take anything for granted. We have zero experience with this sort of thing.)

Thanks for your help, and we’ll let you know how it goes.

Comments

  1. #1 GrrlScientist
    April 29, 2006

    nest relocation will likely fail. i think you should postpone the tree removal until after the chicks fledge. it shouldn’t take that long .. 5 weeks? depending upon the species. but that shouldn’t stop you from planting your persimmon tree since you are placing it in a different location. that’ll give the new tree a chance to become established before summer roasts it.

  2. #2 Bill Hooker
    April 29, 2006

    What GrrlScientist said. I can’t imagine that nest relocation will succeed. I’ve fostered a few baby birds, and every vet and wildlife expert I’ve spoken to has told me that pretty much any human contact with a nest will scare off the parent birds.

    I, too, vote for planting the persimmon now and waiting to off the pine until after the chicks leave the nest.

  3. #3 Honeybee
    April 29, 2006

    I agree with GrrlScientist. I can’t think of a way to make this work. Maybe someone out there has tried it though…

  4. #4 Mouth of the Yellow River
    April 29, 2006

    This is indeed an ethical dilemma and probably will have to be resolved dependent on your personal code of ethics.

    If you are of the ID, religious right, environmental protectionists, animal protectionist, dietary vegan, and other related socio-ideologic sects, then you should probably let them hatch and vacate the nest naturally. You can sit back and satisfy that somewhat hypocritical and in the end selfish socio-psycho need to feel good that you have been a protector of innocent life while sacrificing your feelings of urgency to change the landscape over which you have control.

    If you are from my old country and Japan and other Asian cultures, you will carefully take the eggs and prepare a nice rice-based dish of only the highest quality, and just before dining, crack each of the eggs carefully, do not disturb the yolk (or the developing embryo), as a topping to the serving. Eat the egg (or embryo) with reverence savoring every taste, and go away feeling good that this life has now been continued as an addition to your body and being.

    If you are not in the first or the second category above, but a pure Darwinist, depending on your disposition at the moment, gently or violently destroy the nest and the eggs with it naturally (don’t flush them) so they can contribute to the natural non-human chain of life in your backyard. Go away feeling that you have insured that the genes in the progeny of these parents who were stupid enough to build a nest and lay their eggs in your backyard in such a labile location will not survive and those who did build their nests in a secure location will.

  5. #5 Colin Caret
    April 29, 2006

    Yellow River: what do I do if I am a Neo-Kantian?

  6. #6 Monado
    April 29, 2006

    Wait the three weeks or so until the birds are gone.

  7. #7 Mouth of the Yellow River
    April 30, 2006

    After pondering over all possibilities and consequences within a short period of time (say overnight) to the limit of your capabilities in which time you will unlikely not be able to come to a firm action decision, then flip a coin.

    Heads, destroy the nest and eggs and move ahead with your influence on the world. Tails, let nature take its course and then act.

    At the flip, stand back a distance to where you cannot clearly determine if it were heads or tails beyond the shadow of a doubt.

    Make the call to the best of your perceptive ability, move on it without hesitation and regret.

  8. #8 Janne
    April 30, 2006

    Or, to make everybody happy, wait out the month or two until the hatchlings have flown, then make Oyakodon on ordinary chicken and eggs as a symbol of the meal that got away. Besides, its a damn good meal, nest or not.

  9. #9 wolfwalker
    April 30, 2006

    One thing to get out of the way: “every vet and wildlife expert I’ve spoken to has told me that pretty much any human contact with a nest will scare off the parent birds.”

    If this was true, nobody would dare to monitor bluebird nest boxes. Some birds are very touchy about having the nest disturbed. Others aren’t. And the amount of disturbance is important too. I help monitor some nest-boxes at a nearby nature center, and according to their records, they’ve never had a nest abandoned because of the monitoring. Monitoring involves opening every box twice a week to check the contents, but we try to only observe, not interfere or disturb the nests.

    However, moving the nest would be considerably more “disturbing” than monitoring is, so I would expect it to fail. If ’twas me, I would let the tree stay until the eggs hatch and the babies fledge, which should take no more than 6-8 weeks.

  10. #10 Rick Thomas
    May 10, 2006

    How did it turn out?

    Were those house sparrows by chance? (see photos) If so they’re an invasive species and it would have been OK to remove them.

    http://www.sialis.org/hospphotos.htm

The site is currently under maintenance and will be back shortly. New comments have been disabled during this time, please check back soon.