OAKLAND -- A tree trimmer will face federal criminal charges for injuring five birds while cutting back trees at a downtown post office earlier this month, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife announced Wednesday.
The agency determined Ernesto Pulido, of Bay Point, violated the U.S. Migratory Bird Treaty Act, a federal law designed to protect migratory birds, their nests and habitats, said Jill Birchell, special agent in charge of the California-Nevada region.
The misdemeanor violation can result in six months in jail and fines up to $15,000, but wildlife investigators are recommending Pulido be fined $1,500 because he has taken responsibility, paid for the care of the injured birds and expressed remorse.
The recommendations are being sent to the U.S. attorney's office.
"There was no intent to harm birds," Birchell said. "It was a lack of due diligence on the part of the tree-trimming company. It was a dumb mistake but a mistake nonetheless."
On May 3, the U.S. Postal Service hired Pulido to trim ficus trees near the 13th Street post office, where numerous egrets and black-crowned herons have nested for years, to stop the birds from defecating on mail trucks parked below dozens of nests. As workers pruned the trees, five young black-crowned herons were hurt after falling some 25 feet. The birds suffered scrapes and bruises from the fall and were taken to International Bird Rescue in Fairfield. One bird also had a fractured beak.
No charges have been brought against the Postal Service.
After being displaced from areas around Lake Merritt and Jack London Square, the shorebirds found an ideal spot to roost in the ficus trees, which are near food sources such as Lake Merritt and the Oakland Estuary.
Reached Wednesday, Pulido said he visited the injured birds in Fairfield and has spent $2,500 to pay for their care. Pulido, who said he grew up on a farm, said he loves animals and never meant to hurt the birds.
"I screwed up like every human being does, but I take my consequences," Pulido said. "When you make a mistake you have to pay for it."
A state investigation has not yet been completed.
David DeBolt covers breaking news. Contact him in Richmond at 510-262-2728. Follow him at Twitter.com/daviddebolt.