I have been recieving tons of emails and calls about the plastic bag that is in the Raptor Cam hawk nest. The bag has actually beein in the nest since before the eggs were laid. Mom is actually using the bag as part of the nest structure and has been actively moving it about on a daily basis as she repairs and augments the nest. It is not uncommon for birds to incorporate human garbage into their nests. It is also sadly not uncommon for birds to consume human garbage or become entangles in the debris that we have scattered across out landscape. You can't see it on your television, but a significant portion of the nest is actually comprised of all manner of litter. Last year viewers were very intrigued by the fact that she incorportated a bike innertube into the nest.
Plastic Bag in Nest- with Eggs--Mom perched at top of picture- By Bob Sallinger
PHOTOS: Bag in nest, both hawks - 4/8
We will not go in and remove the bag from the nest---the risks to the eggs and the young from the disturbance would be far more significant than the immediate risk presented by the bag. However, it is an important reminder of the impacts that plastic is having on our wildife and how once this stuff gets into the environment, it is very hard to remove.
Plastic breaks down into small particles that last for thousands of years. It is increasingly recognized as a significant hazard to birds locally and around the world. Wild birds ingest small plastic particles which eventually clog their crops and digestive tracts resulting in starvation and death. The arrival of birds suffering from plastic related starvation has become a common occurrence at Oregon's coastal wildlife rehabilitation centers. While the problem is most acute in seabirds which ingest plastic particles as they attempt to feed on plankton, it is also recognized as an increased threat to land birds as well. A recent report on California Condor recovery in produced by California Audubon identified "microtrash" ingestion, more than 1/3 of which was comprised of plastics, as a significant impediment to Condor recovery.
This bag probably will not cause immediate problems for the eggs or the young (unless they somehow become entangled) but as it breaks down it will contribute to the massive load of small plastic particles that are increasingly covering our landscapes and filling our oceans.
There have been attempts in recent years to ban plastic grocery bags, both by the City of Portland and the State of Oregon. Senator Mark Haas has made it a priority in the next legislative session to pursue this issue. Using reusable cloth bags when we shop is something we can all do to help wildlife and the environment.