Bird friendly tree trimming

The way a tree was meant to be

One of my biggest pet peeves in Los Angeles is the way trees are trimmed.

I always think of a trim as a clip, clip here and clip, clip there, not a chop, chop here and a chop, chop there. But unfortunately for trees all over the Los Angeles area, the chop, chop is how it’s done, which is really a tree cut, not a tree trim.

Tree trimming first came to my attention about four years ago when my landlord had his gardeners trim the two trees next to our apartment building.

When I left for work there were nice leafy green trees and when I returned the magnolia tree had only a few leaves left and no flowers. On the second tree (which I still haven’t identified because I’m not a tree expert) all the branches were cut at the ends, but at least the leaves hadn’t been pulled off.

Even worse, we lost all our shade during one of the hottest months of the year…August. I called my landlord and asked him, “What happened?!” He explained that the trees had to be trimmed to prevent them from damaging the roof where the leaves fall and clog up the drainage pipes. I explained that instead of just trimming the trees near the roof, the gardeners had ripped off most of the leaves on the magnolia tree and now we didn’t have any shade. He said he would talk to the gardeners next time and ask them to trim the trees just near the roof.

We have been having this conversation once a year for the last four years. One time, I heard the gardeners outside and called my landlord in a panic, can you please tell them to just trim the trees near the roof? He said, since you’re there why don’t you just tell them. So I talked to them and it didn’t do a darn thing. Finally this year, I remembered two months in advance and I emailed our landlord asking him if he could talk to the gardeners about just trimming the trees near the roof and he did. They still ripped a lot of leaves off the magnolia tree, but not nearly as bad. (My landlord is the nicest guy ever by the way, and he actually invests money in the building and takes care of it, which is probably the reason I never noticed tree trimming issues at our old building because the manager was too cheap to bother.)

Not long after the first tree trimming incident, I was driving on a road in Venice, one block north of Venice Blvd., and I noticed that a whole row of trees had been trimmed so severely that there weren’t any leaves left, just a sad row of tree trunks with stumpy branches sticking out. What the…I thought as I drove by.

Since then I’ve seen tons of examples of “tree slaughter,” my nickname for this completely unnecessary and annoying phenomenon. The sun shines a lot in Los Angeles, so why on earth would you want to remove natural shade? And what about the birds? They live in the trees, trimming trees so severely could disrupt nesting and take away important habitat. But what’s a person to do? I really only have influence on the trees outside my window.

At least that’s what I thought until I found a booklet of Tree Trimming Guidelines in English or Spanish on the Los Angeles Audubon Chapter website! I was so excited to see this, it’s the first indication I’ve had that I’m not crazy and there really is a tree trimming problem in Los Angeles.

The 12-page booklet is excellent. It’s officially called “Bird-Friendly Tree and Shrub Trimming and Removal,” it discusses why trees are important, why birds need trees, what types of birds live in the Los Angeles area and also fly through, laws protecting birds, what phone numbers to call to report nest harassment or inappropriate tree trimming, and most importantly, how and when to trim trees. Please pay close attention to page five, which provides a detailed account of nesting time frames.

Thanks for reading my tree trimming rant! And please pass along the Tree Trimming Guidelines to every homeowner, building owner and gardener you know in Los Angeles to help turn more chops into clips.


  1. Bryan says

    I’ll read your rants any day of the week. Your passion for this issue is infectious, and thank you for protecting our trees and our shade!

  2. Mindi says

    The “professional tree trimmers” who “know their stuff” massacred the trees around my house. They cut off all the branches of my big, gorgeous loquat tree, which immediately went into shock and then died. The landlord doesn’t believe me. The last time I called him, I said, “How dead does this dead tree have to be before you understand that those guys killed it?” He wants to wait until spring to see if it magically sprouts leaves and fruit on the nonexistent branches. Pissed off? Me?

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