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Baling twine harmful for nesting birds

Even when such a tragedy is witnessed by a human, osprey nests tend to be high and inaccessible so rescue is rare. When possible, power companies, local electricians and others with long-reaching bucket trucks provide rescue but there are many they canít get to and likely many more that are never found.
Even when such a tragedy is witnessed by a human, osprey nests tend to be high and inaccessible so rescue is rare. When possible, power companies, local electricians and others with long-reaching bucket trucks provide rescue but there are many they canít get to and likely many more that are never found.

by M. CATHY NOWAK / For The Observer 

Spring is nearly upon us, or it is already upon us, depending on your perspective. With spring comes the arrival of migratory birds and the onset of nesting season. Birds that stuck it out with us through the winter may begin nest building early, but those that spent the winter away will generally get to work as soon as they arrive back in Northeast Oregon.

Spring is nearly upon us, or it is already upon us, depending on your perspective. With spring comes the arrival of migratory birds and the onset of nesting season. Birds that stuck it out with us through the winter may begin nest building early, but those that spent the winter away will generally get to work as soon as they arrive back in Northeast Oregon.

Nest building is really an amazing phenomenon. Nest- building birds find grass, twigs, sticks, leaves, weeds and spider webs to create a secure home in which to lay and incubate eggs and rear their young to the age of flight. Hawks and eagles will even break sticks off of trees for use in nests by grabbing a branch in flight and snapping it from the tree. Many materials of human manufacture also end up in bird nests, including plastic grocery bags, fabric, yarn and baling twine. 

The most devastating, and deadly, of these is baling twine.

To a bird, baling twine looks like perfect nest-building material: it is long and flexible and strong enough to be intertwined with other nest materials to help hold the whole works together. 

What makes it deadly is exactly what makes it perfect for holding bales — it is really, really hard to break and it never seems to rot. 

The hay or straw it holds together will likely disintegrate before the twine will rot.

 So, unlike natural nest components, when a bird gets tangled in baling twine it simply cannot get out on its own. 

They can’t untie it, untangle it, break it or cut it and will die an ugly death tied to or dangling from their nest.

Ospreys, our beautiful, long-winged “fish eagles,” are especially susceptible to the lure of baling twine and untold numbers of them die every year tangled in it in their nests.

Often, it is the nestlings that get trapped as they hop around in the nest building their muscles and preparing for flight. The twine wraps in their talons and around their legs.

Then, when they do try to fly they are tethered and, lacking the strength to get back to the nest platform, they hang helplessly below it.

Even when such a tragedy is witnessed by a human, osprey nests tend to be high and inaccessible so rescue is rare. When possible, power companies, local electricians and others with long-reaching bucket trucks provide rescue but there are many they can’t get to and likely many more that are never found. For wildlife rehabilitators like Blue Mountain Wildlife in Pendleton, too many ospreys rescued from baling twine can not be helped and must be euthanized.

The solution? Do not allow baling twine to be available to osprey or any wildlife. 

Baling twine, even if it is tied in knots, placed in or on the bed of a pickup, will inevitably end up blowing out. 

Wildlife biologists encourage people to not throw twine in the back of a pickup unless it is contained in a bag or bucket. 

When disposing of baling twine, take care to ensure it is either cut into short lengths (12 inches), completely enclosed in a bag or better yet, send it to a recycling service. 

For those who do not regularly use bales of hay or straw, resolve to pick up and properly dispose of any twine you find exposed where wildlife of any kind might find it and pick it up. 

These relatively easy steps will go a long way toward preventing the torture and death of many of these magnificent birds. 

We owe them that.

 
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