Tangled Osprey Healed and Returned to Nest
This bird, a fledgling-aged Osprey, was hatched in a nest on a tall light post at the Port of Oakland. Volunteer nest monitors had been following the development of this Osprey family and, on June 20, one of the monitors observed that the young bird was trying to fly out of the nest but couldn’t escape from some sort of tether. Her foot appeared to be caught by a thin line. This was a very dangerous situation for the young Osprey, and immediate rescue was needed.
A call to wildlife rescuers at Wildlife Emergency Services helped get the Oakland Fire Department involved. Firefighters climbed to the nest and cut the tight wad of line that was wrapped around the young Osprey’s foot. The firefighters realized during the process that the bird also needed medical treatment — the line had cut deeply into her leg as she tried frantically to fly off the nest.
Ospreys are notoriously difficult to care for in the Wildlife Hospital. They are very high stress, and they are rarely self-feeding while in care. This fledgling Osprey was as large as an adult bird, and very strong. Fortunately, it only required one week of wound treatments, antibiotics, pain medications and bandage changes at WildCare before the bird was healthy enough to return to her parents’ care.
As luck would have it, on July 1, the same Oakland firemen who had originally rescued the bird were available to meet at the nest site to use their truck and ladder to get the young raptor back atop the 30-foot pole. As the parent Ospreys circled overhead, WildCare staff and Golden Gate Raptor Observatory volunteers gave the firemen a quick lesson on how to safely remove the Osprey from her carrier and place her on the nest. Then two men climbed the many rungs up to the platform. Once there, these generous firemen went the extra mile and first removed a large amount of debris from the nest. Osprey nests often have a lot of clutter; nest-building birds find debris on the shore and bring it back as nesting material. The birds don’t understand the dangers of the plastic, or the risks of entangling fishing line to their young.
The firemen removed a lot of fishing line, rope and other potentially dangerous items from the nest, and then they placed some defrosted fish inside to give the newly-released bird a last easy meal. Finally, they gently extricated the Osprey from the carrying box and placed her in the nest. The young bird immediately took off in flight with powerful pumping wing beats to the cheers of rescuers and observers on the ground.
The Dangers of Fishing Line
Monofilament fishing line is made from a single line of plastic, often only 1/100 of an inch thick. When improperly discarded, it can blow into the water and entangle water birds and marine mammals. Both WildCare and Golden Gate Audubon have been key advocates in promoting fishing line recycling to keep this nearly-invisible menace from harming so many other animals.
A national initiative called Reel In and Recycle encourages people to recycle their used monofilament, which is melted down and turned into artificial reefs that support young fish populations. Golden Gate Audubon and WildCare have installed recycling containers at a number of Bay Area fishing sites.
If you know of a fishing site that could use a monofilament recycling container, please request that the land manager install and maintain a monofilament recycling program on their property, which is simple to do.
Text by Alison Hermance, WildCare and Cindy Margulis, Golden Gate Audubon