- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 2, 2015

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. (AP) - Residents of a neighborhood in Newport Beach are mourning the loss of snowy egret and black-crowned night heron chicks after the tree they were nested in was removed.

At least 75 people attended a memorial service Sunday for the birds that died or were displaced Thursday. Neighbors said there were 20 to 30 baby birds and parents in the tree, according to the Orange County Register (http://bit.ly/1SSr6EF).

“It was a catastrophe,” said resident Jeff Dole. “It was probably one of the worst things that’s happened in Newport Beach nature-wise in a long time.”

Dole said herons and egrets were still circling the site of the 50-year-old tree days after the removal.

Lt. Tom Fischbacher said Newport Beach’s Animal Control department is looking into whether the removal of the tree violated state laws protecting migratory birds based on the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 that protects more than 1,000 species across the country.

Snowy egrets and night herons are not endangered or threatened species but they are protected under federal law.

Animal control officers went to the site of the tree three times after removal and recovered eight baby egrets and one baby night heron, Fischbacher said. They were taken to the Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center of Orange County in Huntington Beach but not all the chicks survived the trip.

Daniel Broome of Tim Greenleaf Engineering, the company contracted to remove the trees, said the project had all necessary approvals from the city and the state’s Coastal Commission.

“We’re not happy about how the crew responded to neighbors or how the wildlife was handled,” he said. “This whole thing is raising issues internally in our company and pushing us to be a better citizen in the area.”

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Information from: The Orange County Register, http://www.ocregister.com

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