Maryland v. Osprey: The battle of the nest

Osprey nest at MD Transportation traffic camera

WASHINGTON, April 23, 2014 — There has been a battle raging in Maryland over the past week between two federally protected Ospreys and the Terrapin State.

The conflict started a week ago when the Maryland Transportation Authority noticed an Osprey nest being build around a traffic camera along the Chesapeak Bay Bridge.

The large nest was being built at the top of a camera pole located at the toll plaza for the busy bridge.

The first problem was that as the nest grew, the camera’s view was being blocked and second was that the birds did not seem to like sharing their newly chosen nesting area with the camera and started attacking it.

According to the local news source, WTOP, the Transportation Authority reached out to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for assistance in relocating the nest before more damage was done to the $6,000 camera and before any eggs were laid.

Once eggs or young birds are in the nest it becomes more difficult to move and would require a permit.

The nest was removed, and the birds rebuilt another one in the same location on the traffic camera pole.

MDTA removed it again, and the birds rebuilt. Three times.

Now a wildlife expert may have come up with a solution.

Craig Koppie, a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service believes that the predatory birds can be encouraged to change locations if they have another structure nearby to relocate to.

Ospreys often use manmade structures as the base for their nests. Nests have been found on communication towers, rooftops, telephone poles and duck blinds.

Koppie believes that by moving the nest only 15 feet away from the traffic camera will not only protect the expensive government equipment but also provide a safer location for the birds and any future chicks.

If the nest were to remain in the current location, when chicks first leave the nest they would actually fall directly onto the highway.

The practice of building artificial platforms for Ospreys began in the 1970s due to the decline in natural nesting locations as the population numbers started to decline.

The platform build will begin by the Maryland government in the next day or so with the hope that it will be completed before the end of the week.

The Osprey is protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. The Act makes it illegal to hunt, capture or kill any migratory bird. The law protects all birds regardless of if they are living or dead as well as any part of the bird including feathers, eggs or nests.

The Department of Transportation plans to continue removing any new nests as long as the birds continue to build them.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service should continue to grant approval for the removal of the nests up until the time that eggs are laid.

If the birds do not move onto the platform and they manage to lay eggs in a nest on the camera platform, the nest will no longer be allowed to be moved under federal law.

For now, the power struggle continues.

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  • allison

    Interesting. I was under the impression that “active” nests were protected, and thought that one being built was considered active.

  • Christa

    Hi Allison! An “active” nest is one that has at least one egg or fledgling, for which the parents are actively caring (such as incubation, feeding, etc.). Some birds might nest-build in multiple locations multiple times (especially if this is their first breeding season), so the egg-laying in a specific nest indicates that is the spot at which the parents have chosen to breed. So glad the platform solution worked – awesome job, Mr. Koppie!