Federal wildlife authorities are looking into whether Port of San Francisco workers violated the law when they destroyed a rare birds' nest on a crane, CBS San Francisco station KCBS reports.
The nest was home to a pair of ospreys, which were once near extinction. They had never been seen before in San Francisco until the nest appeared on a crane on Pier 80 in the bay area last summer. Oracle America's Cup yacht racing team set up shop there, too.
"You cannot mess with migrating birds in the bay area. I don't care if there's 6 or 7 million humans around - the birds have precedence," KCBS and San Francisco Chronicle insider Phil Matier reports.
The port agreed last year to shut down the crane to allow the birds to nest. But they were only willing to wait so long as the crane unloads ship cargo and is used to lift Oracle America's Cup boats in and out of the water.
After about six months, port workers took steps to discourage the birds from returning: They put reflectors and wire on the crane and built a device that makes a sound to annoy the two-winged animals.
The ospreys had gone away for the winter and just last week, port workers smashed their nest. Naturalist Eddie Barley said he saw an osprey flying in the area recently and believes the nest was still "active."
Officials with the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife said they are trying to determine if the port workers violated the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, a federal law that makes it illegal to destroy an active raptor's nest during mating season.
Matier reports this isn't the first time the America's Cup has come across such a conundrum. They spent $150,000 on a bird study to find out if the sails on their ships were going to disrupt or upset birds.