NSP relocate osprey nests from poles as safety measure

Sueann Musick
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RIVER JOHN – Graham Johnston knew power crews were out in full force this week, but their work at a pole near Rushton’s Beach caught his eye.

Photo by Graham Johnston

Nova Scotia Power crews work to move an osprey nest to a dummy pole to prevent power outages or having the birds being electrocuted.

He passed the crew and its three large trucks parked in the area and thought he noticed them working at an osprey nest on top of the pole.

“I drove past them and I had my camera on the seat beside me,” Johnston said. “I went two or three miles past and I turned around and went back just in case they were ripping (the nest) down.”

A lifelong birder and award-winning photojournalist, Johnston said his interest was piqued even more when he realized the crew was moving the nest to a new platform to prevent birds from being electrocuted by the power lines.

Nova Scotia Power has been relocating osprey nests for the past 25 years. Through the osprey relocation program, NSP’s power line technicians relocate threatened nests on top of live utility poles to safer, “dummy poles” that have a platform on the top.

The pole is placed as close to the nest as possible because osprey like the view from the pole they pick since it has a good view of their habitat.

In a demonstration video on its website, NSP estimates that a nest can weigh between 100 and 300 pounds. The nests on top of the poles not only put birds in danger of being electrocuted, they can also cause power outages.

The company said the nest restoration project is now being used by other companies across North America.

What you need to know about osprey:

– Osprey is known as the fish hawk because that is all it eats.


– The female osprey is a third larger in size than the male, a phenomenon reflecting most birds of prey.


– Their keen eyes are far more sensitive than ours, allowing them to detect fish in the water from great heights. They have long, powerful legs, and feet armed with inch-long talons. The pads of their feet are covered with hundreds of sharp spines. Perfect for grasping slippery fish!


– Osprey return to Nova Scotia from their wintering grounds in South America and the Caribbean by mid-April. Branches, sticks and seaweed are brought in to refurbish the nest.


– They usually mate for life, and return to the same nesting area year after year. Early in the breeding season the reunited osprey pair performs an exciting aerial courtship display.


– Osprey nests are usually built in treetops near fishing areas. Not being fussy, however, osprey will readily build nests on artificial structures such as the crossbars of power poles.


– In early May, the female osprey lays up to four brown eggs, covered with cinnamon-coloured splotches. Chicks are born 32 days after egg-laying takes place.


– By early August the young ospreys have made their first flights, although they often return to the nest.


– Fishing is learned by watching adults dive for fish, and by many trial and error dives. It is estimated that only about 60 per cent of ospreys that fledge survive the first year of life on their own.


– With the onset of fall, ospreys make their way south to their wintering grounds. The young birds tend to remain south for two years honing their fishing skills.


– Ospreys are quite long lived; a 10-year old osprey is not unusual, and a bird 25 years old has been recorded.


– Information provided by the Nova Scotia government

Organizations: Nova Scotia Power

Geographic location: Nova Scotia, North America, South America Caribbean

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Recent comments

  • Graham Johnston
    February 04, 2016 - 06:45

    Thanks for raising the profile of Ospreys. If I could add, as the official provincial bird the Osprey is an important Nova Scotia symbol. Formerly an endangered species for some 25 years, they are now experiencing growth in numbers- estimated at some 400 nesting pairs. To experience Ospreys in their natural environment NSP and the NS Museum of Natural History maintain a great seasonal webcam. Through this live video stream, viewers have the opportunity to watch a pair of wild NS Ospreys nest building, egg laying, incubation, hatching, feeding and fledging of their chicks. http://www.novascotia.ca/museum/osprey/