NEWPORT BEACH ( — Two construction workers who cut down a tree in Newport Beach containing baby birds — killing half of them — have pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges.

Stephen Esser of Dana Point and David Stanley of Downey entered pleas Wednesday to destruction of a nest and unlawful taking of migratory birds. They were sentenced to 120 hours of community service and have paid thousands of dollars in fines and restitution.

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The men used a backhoe last May to cut down a ficus tree during a home demolition. Prosecutors say they ignored pleas by neighbors to spare the tree because snowy egrets and black-crowned night herons were nesting there.

A dozen nestlings fell out of the tree. Five died.

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Seven baby birds were rescued by neighbors and taken to the Westlands and Wildlife Center in Huntington Beach, where they were nursed back to health after six weeks.

The survivors were treated at a wildlife rescue center and released.

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