News / Science & Technology

Birds Feather Nests with Deadly Twine, Fishing Lines

This is how ospreys’ unhealthy affinity for baling twine can kill. Idaho Fish and Game biologist Beth Waterbury rescued this osprey in the nick of time. (Beth Waterbury, Idaho Fish and Game)
This is how ospreys’ unhealthy affinity for baling twine can kill. Idaho Fish and Game biologist Beth Waterbury rescued this osprey in the nick of time. (Beth Waterbury, Idaho Fish and Game)
Tom Banse

The osprey, a common bird of prey found around the world, builds big nests near rivers, lakes and bays. Some of these large raptors line their nests with discarded baling twine or fishing line, but this habit can kill them.

U.S. biologists, including University of Montana professor Erick Greene, are working with ranchers and at boat ramps to keep the attractive nuisance out of the ospreys' clutches.

Greene, resident ecologist with the Montana Osprey Project, has surveyed osprey nests in his home state and across the northwest. In all those places, he discovered nests festooned with brightly colored plastic twine.

“Basically, wherever you’ve got agriculture, hay fields, livestock - which is a lot of the West - you have baling twine, which is used to tie up hay bales, and you have ospreys,” Greene said.

  • Discarded baling twine adorns a nest on the outskirts of Missoula. (Courtesy of Erick Greene, Univ. of Montana)
  • This is how ospreys’ unhealthy affinity for baling twine can kill. Idaho Fish and Game biologist Beth Waterbury rescued this osprey in the nick of time. (Beth Waterbury, Idaho Fish and Game)
  • Linemen from Missoula Electric Cooperative prepare to clean the nest. (Tom Banse/VOA)
  • The alarmed osprey parents circle the whole time, but do not act aggressively toward the good Samaritans. (Tom Banse/VOA)
  • The “polluted” nest contained two osprey chicks. (Tom Banse/VOA)
  • Missoula Electric Cooperative linemen George Porter and Eric Nicoson work on the nest. (Courtesy of Erick Greene, Univ. of Montana)
  • Scissors are George Porter’s tool of choice to remove the baling twine woven into this osprey nest. (Tom Banse/VOA)
  • Another osprey nest awaiting cleanup in the Missoula area. (Courtesy of Erick Greene, Univ. of Montana)
  • University of Montana Professor Erick Greene says one osprey nest he dissected contained nearly one half mile of discarded baling twine. (Courtesy of Erick Greene, Univ. of Montana)
  • Montana Osprey Project disentangles an osprey chick last month near Missoula. (Courtesy of Erick Greene, Univ. of Montana)
  • This large osprey chick was entangled in tough polypro twine before it was rescued last month. (Courtesy of Erick Greene, Univ. of Montana)

Biologists don't know why the fish hawks are particularly fond of soft, frayed rope, which they use it in place of lichens or grasses in their nests.

Fatal attraction

It’s sometimes a fatal attraction.

“It looks as if anywhere between 10-to-30 percent of osprey chicks and adults in some areas that are particularly hard hit are killed by this baling twine," Greene said. "The entangled raptors can suffer gruesome deaths by strangulation or starve because they can’t fly off to fish."

That is, unless someone comes to the rescue or, better yet, gives a nest what Greene calls a preventive “haircut.”

He enlists a bucket truck and a crew of linemen from the Missoula Electric Cooperative, and they head to a nest with chicks. It’s on top of a power pole in the middle of a ranch by the Clark Fork River. It's a nest Greene has been worried about for years.

"It has killed a lot of ospreys over the years. This is going to be a good one to clean up," he said.

Rescue effort

Lineman George Porter leads a team up to the nest with scissors.

Strands of orange string drape from the wide bowl of sticks like Christmas tinsel. Soon, any unnatural nest material will be removed by snipping and tugging.

It appears as if the ospreys tied knots in the nest.

"That’s basically what it looks like, all tangled,” Porter said. “Yeah, they definitely use it to hold everything together.”

There are multiple kinds of twine in the nest, including a piece of black nylon rope.

The osprey parents squawk anxiously in the background, but they circle at a distance and don't interfere with the quick cleanup of their nest.

Logical solutions

The preferable solution, of course, would be to keep twine and fishing line out of nests in the first place.

In Idaho, the state Fish and Game Department and its local partners are placing periscope-shaped recycling bins for fishing line at boat ramps. State wildlife biologist Beth Waterbury also worked on setting up a baling twine pick up and recycling program in her area.

“It’s a logical solution," she said. "I think it is going to make a difference for the incidence of entanglement.”

In western Montana, student researcher Amanda Schrantz did public outreach to farm groups and individual ranchers. She says many had no idea about the lethal effects of discarded twine or the pressing need to collect and store it out of sight.

Schrantz says if just one ranch or dairy leaves twine in its fields, the ospreys will find it.

“Ospreys will go great distances to pick up this baling twine," she said. "Even though we don’t know why, they are. You kind of have to have 100 percent cooperation with this.”

In Oregon, Colorado and Minnesota, private recyclers of plastics accept used baling twine and hay wrap. They can melt it down into new baler twine or automotive parts. Another company recycles recovered monofilament fishing line into artificial reef pieces.

See a livestream of an osprey nest by clicking here.  

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Nadeem Shehzad from: New Delhi, India
August 13, 2014 3:24 AM
We run a bird rescue service here in India and we see this type of cases almost every other day. Here the nylon thread is used for flying paper kites and you can see them entangled in branches and of course a building material for nests by birds, specially Raptors. There is no count how many have lost their lives because of these nylon and as well as cotton threads.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs