Osprey chicks are just beginning to peek above the protection of their high-perched nests. Next month, new-feathered fledglings will attempt their first flights, many from platforms built by Chelan PUD. (audio starts at 0:11:15 on the board recording)
Osprey are a migratory raptor that prefer to nest on the tallest snags or structures, as close as possible to the shoreline where they fish. Power poles tend to be attractive for osprey nesting, which is not always a safe option for the birds and increases the risk of fire and power outages.
Osprey are not threatened or endangered, but they’re protected under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which prohibits anyone from moving an active nest. When a nest is started in an unsafe location, Chelan PUD builds standalone platforms up to 65 feet tall that provide osprey with a safer option nearby during the onset of nesting season.
“Every spring, we monitor power poles closely for any new nesting activity. Once we notice nesting material in unsafe locations, we have to act quickly to provide an alternative and entice the birds to a safer location” said Chelan PUD Biologist Kelly Cordell. “We want to protect the osprey and reliability for customers. That’s what this program is about.”
The nesting platform program, part of Chelan PUD’s Avian Protection Plan, began with fewer than 10 in 2006. This spring, the number of platforms totaled about 56 as the population of osprey has grown exponentially.
Canada Geese, which normally nest on the ground, have seized the opportunity and overtaken some osprey nests in recent years. Geese lay their eggs weeks before osprey return from their annual migration from Central and South America, forcing the raptors to seek lodging elsewhere.
To prevent the geese from using the osprey platforms, line crews place covers over the osprey nests during March to keep geese out until the osprey return. When the osprey arrive in early April, the covers are removed.
“The monitoring keeps us all very busy in the spring.” Cordell said. “We’re working with our partners at the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife to find more solutions for managing goose and osprey conflicts.”