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

As US Strikes Syria, China Sees Parallels at Home

Beijing is debating how much support to give international coalition against IS militants and trying to figure out how many Chinese nationals may have joined group overseas More

CDC: Ebola Could Infect 1.4 M by 2015

US health officials say if efforts to curb the outbreak are not increased, cases will soar dramatically by early next year More

Video USAID Provides $231 Million for Girls Education in 5 Countries

US Agency for International Development partners with celebrities to call attention to importance of education for girls worldwide 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.
NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbiti
X
September 22, 2014 9:20 PM
NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbit

NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video For West Ukraine City, Conflict Far Away Yet Near

The western Ukrainian city of Lviv prides itself on being both physically and culturally close to Western Europe. The Russian-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country are 1,200 kilometers away, and seemingly even farther away in their world view. Still, as VOA’s Al Pessin reports, the war is having an impact in Lviv.
Video

Video Saving Global Fish Stocks Starts in the Kitchen

With an estimated 90 percent of the world’s larger fish populations having already vanished, a growing number of people in the seafood industry are embracing the concept of sustainable fishing and farming practices. One American marine biologist turned restaurateur in Thailand is spreading the word among fellow chefs and customers. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Chinese Admiral Key in China’s Promotion of Sea Links

China’s President last week wrapped up landmark visits to India, Sri Lanka and Maldives, part of a broader campaign to promote a new “Maritime Silk Road” in Asia. The Chinese government’s promotion efforts rely heavily on the country’s best-known sailor, a 15th century eunuch named Zheng He. VOA's Bill Ide reports from the sailor’s hometown in Yunnan on the effort to promote China’s future by recalling its past.
Video

Video Experts Fear Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid