Sea gull chicks hold up construction of new roof at West High School
At West High School, the noise from summer construction fills the air. But in a nearby courtyard of the school, there’s a different sound. It comes from dozens of sea gulls that have decided to use the courtyard as their home while they rear their young.
Anchorage School District project manager Nick Bell said replacing the roof that surrounds the courtyard is one of three projects at West this summer that total about $2 million. The other projects, including fixing up the exterior of the pool building and renovating parking lots, have already started.
Not this one. The birds are holding things up.
Andrea Medeiros, spokesperson for the Alaska regional office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said the sea gulls are shielded by federal law.
“Because these birds are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, you have to be very careful during the nesting season to protect those birds,” she said.
When multiple nests were discovered in the courtyard in early June, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service gave them permission to move the nests and the eggs inside. Before the work got underway, the chicks hatched.
Bell said that’s when things got complicated. Because the birds were now acting aggressively and posed a risk to worker safety, he was given a choice. He could postpone the expensive roof project or the chicks could be legally put down.
“I had a problem with that morally,” said Bell. “I didn’t see any need to kill or harm the chicks if we could reschedule the project.”
In the end, that’s exactly what he decided to do.
While the other construction at West will continue, the roof replacement will have to wait till late July. That’s when the birds will be old enough to fly and are expected to leave the area with their parents.
Bell said the contractor was able to juggle their schedule for the sake of the birds and the delay shouldn’t cost the district any more money. He called it a win-win for the district and Mother Nature.
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