NEWPORT BEACH ( — Residents in Newport Beach became infuriated when construction workers toppled a tree in May and dozens of bird nests came crashing to the ground.

Many chicks died but the few egrets and herons saved from the ordeal were released on Wednesday back into the wild.

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Resident Caroline Vassar was one of the volunteers who set the birds free along the Balboa Peninsula.

She and other residents scooped up the baby birds after they fell out of a ficus tree being torn down to make way for a new home.

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“[The birds] were falling out and the foreman, the driver, they didn’t care, they didn’t care. They did not care one bit,” Vassar said of the construction workers as they knocked down the tree. “They kept telling me to ‘Go save the world. … Go play some more tennis, lady, you’re pathetic.’ ”

Newport Beach City Manager Dave Kiff says criminal charges may be filed over the incident.

Meanwhile, Kiff says: “We needed to remind people much better about taking care of trees and birds during nesting season. And that’s our fault, and we needed to correct that – so we have. We’re now much more robust about the permit experience. When you come in you should know never to do this.”

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A spokesman for the demolition crew working from Tim Greenleaf Engineering said: “We’re not happy about how the crew responded to neighbors or the wildlife was handled.”