Speed Reads

Nature's Nightmares

Oakland post office orders tree trimming, accidentally sends nesting baby birds through wood chipper

Every town has its quirks, and Oakland, California residents enjoy the "rain-forest-like cacophony" of black-crowned night herons that roost in the downtown area's ficus trees.

At least, residents enjoyed the ruckus until Saturday, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. The local U.S. Postal Service office, fed up with the birds' defecating onto mail trucks parked below the ficus trees, hired a local tree-trimming service to shear back the city-owned trees. Crews arrived and began sawing off branches on several trees, sending nests — and the baby chicks inside — through a wood chipper. Onlookers called police, who arrived and told the tree trimming crews to halt their work.

Now, U.S. and California wildlife officials are investigating; killing nesting migratory birds is a misdemeanor with a fine of $2,000 per bird to boot. A spokesman for the Postal Service called the incident "very unfortunate."

"I can certainly understand why people are upset," Augustine Ruiz told the Chronicle. "The post office would never do anything to hurt wildlife. In fact, we issue stamps to protect birds."

If Oakland's post office has a black-crowned night heron stamp ready to be released, though, it should probably hold off for now.