Ospreys: Finding the Right Fit

July 20, 2015


Bears and birds hanging out on our power poles always make for some neat pictures. But at the risk of sounding like a downer, this behaviour can be risky for the animals and cause major power outages for our customers.

One issue that we’ve frequently dealt with is ospreys building their nests on our major transmission lines. Ospreys are master nest builders— their nests can reach up to six feet in diameter— and can be a big problem because they tend to drag everything from sticks to twine to the top of our power poles. This can damage our facilities and cause power outages when the wind starts blowing and debris starts hanging down.

A few years ago, osprey-related outages were getting so bad in certain areas that we realized we needed to take immediate action. So what could we do?

Moving the nests was not a simple task because the ospreys are an endangered species. We would have to move the nests before the birds started laying eggs, and even that’s a tricky process. Instead, we investigated several options to discourage the ospreys from nesting on our facilities in the first place, while making sure the birds weren’t harmed.

First, we tried plastic spike belts that have been successful keeping other birds away from buildings. The spike belts are designed so birds can’t comfortably land on a given spot. Unfortunately, the ospreys found the belts offered them better footing and places to put their sticks!

Next, we tried capping the tops of our poles with plastic hoods, but found that doing so for all our poles would be very costly. At this point we should also reiterate that our highly skilled power line technicians and engineers are not trained in ornithology (the study of birds).

We were unsure of what to do next, when an incident last year finally provided a working solution. When one of our power poles was damaged we found that a family of ospreys were suddenly without a home. As our crews installed a new pole and restored power, they noticed the ospreys were already starting to rebuild their nest on the structure.

The line crew went back the next day with a 45-foot pole capped with a fibreglass box, and installed it 5 metres away from the power pole. To the crew’s delight, the ospreys immediately began to build their nest in the box, and within eight hours, the ospreys had a brand new home that would no longer be a danger to them, or an outage risk for rest of us.

Because of that success, we’ve begun to install nesting pots on several structures along our transmission lines where the Ospreys are located. The pots are designed to accommodate the osprey’s natural habitat, while keeping them away from the lines. It seems we’ve finally found the best fit for us, and the ospreys.

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