EXTRA – Florida linemen rescue osprey

When electric cooperative linemen rescue ospreys and falcons, the source of danger is usually live power lines.

But in a recent rescue of an osprey fledgling led by Florida Keys Electric Cooperative, the culprit was fishing wire tangled around a talon, causing the bird to dangle upside down from its nest.

Line technicians, under the supervision of a co-worker and local wildlife officials, turned what could have been a sad story into a happy homecoming for the baby and its parents.

“I’ve participated in many bird rescues over the years,” said the co-op’s Robert Lovell. “However, this was a little unique because we had to untangle the osprey and retrieve him.

Sara Hamilton, the Tavernier-based co-op’s environmental and regulatory affairs coordinator, was the first at the co-op to learn about the situation and called a dispatcher to send help. “I got a call from a friend who saw the osprey,” she said. “It was clearly in distress.”

To carry out the rescue, the co-op sent a highline truck with a crane and bucket long enough to reach the middle of the swamp. The job also called for closing down the road.

By all accounts, help came just in time. The line had dug itself into the fledgling’s talon and skin had started to grow over the wound.

“By the time we reached the bird, he had tired himself out, making it easier to grab the little guy,” said Lovell, who rescued the bird along with colleague Billy Goodwin. Two days later they returned the bird to a pole top nest in the middle of a swampy wetland.

While the rescue had a happy ending, the incident also carries an important reminder: Improper disposal of nets, fishing line and other marine debris can kill wildlife.

Florida co-op linemen rescue an osprey fledgling caught in a fishing line. (Photo By: Sara Hamilton)

“Ospreys will use anything they find interesting and use it to build their nests. I’ve seen flip flops and towels in osprey nests,” said Hamilton.

In this case, the osprey parents used old, uncut fishing line in the nest. “He was probably trying to use his wings for the first time, when he got caught. He didn’t have the strength to right himself, and he definitely would have died,” Hamilton said.

Source – ECT.coop – a publication of the NRECA