Australia has some of the most vibrant species of birds on the planet. Many of these are native species, but some are introduced species that have managed to flourish. If you need to prune or remove any trees from your backyard, you need to be mindful of any impact this might cause to nesting birds. If birds have chosen one of your trees as their home, there can be severe limitations on what you can actually do to the tree in question. So what do you need to be aware of if you need to alter a tree that is now home to a feathered friend?

Check the Tree's Status

Regardless of whether there are birds nesting in the tree, you first need to check that you are entitled to alter the tree. Local councils have tree registries that act as a database for significant trees. This is when it has been decided that these trees either have a historical significance or that the surrounding environment would be negatively affected by their removal. There are many factors to consider, such as the tree's age, height, the width of the trunk, and the size of the canopy. Check with your local council before planning any work to the tree, even if you only want tree lopping to be performed. You can be fined if you alter a significant tree without prior permission.

Check the Bird's Status

When it comes to birdlife and the tree, you need to consult another branch of government. There is a federal list of birdlife that is critically endangered, endangered, or vulnerable. If any of these birds are nesting in the tree in question, you are generally not permitted to alter the tree unless it poses a tangible threat—such as a largely dead tree that poses a risk of shedding branches or falling over. Even then, you need permission from your local council. For birds that are not included on the federal list, their conservation status is determined by the Department of Environment in your particular state or territory.


Compromise is the name of the game when it comes to altering a tree that a bird calls home. Depending on the type of bird, you might only be able to prune or remove the tree once the bird's nesting season has come to an end. Some species of bird (such as the sulphur-crested cockatoo) are seasonal nesters. Once their chicks have hatched and left the nest, the nest is abandoned. It can be the case that you're only granted permission to alter the tree once it has been abandoned as a nest for the season. You also might only be able to prune certain branches instead of removing the entire tree.

So if you need to remove or severely prune one of your backyard trees, you should first contact your local council. If no birdlife is evident and the tree is not classed as significant, you can generally go ahead. But if birds call the tree home, please ensure that you contact your applicable Department of Environment to ensure that your wildlife conservation responsibilities are met.