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March 8, 2010--Plastic Bag in Nest No Cause for Concern

by Bob Sallinger


Posted on March 8, 2010 at 5:43 PM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 30 at 5:35 AM

Many people have been calling and emailing about the plastic bag that has appeared in the nest.

PHOTOS: What's that in the nest?!

There is no cause for concern. The bag may have blown in or the hawks may have actually brought it into the nest themselves. The hawks incorporate many natural and manmade materials into their nests.

Viewers of the 2009 Raptor Cam Season will recall that last years nest was lined with a bicycle innertube. The hawks moved it around and reaaranged it throughout the entire nesting season (What could be more "Portland" than hawks lining nests with bike innertubes!!!).

When I checked out her nest after the 2009 nesting season I found that probably 25%-30% of the materials in the nest were human garbage that they had picked-up in the environment.

The bag will not cause them any immediated harm. They may use it for lining. The material that I worry about most in nests is string and rope that birds very frequenlty use in nest construction. We deal regularly with birds that have become tangled in ropes and strings that are intertwined with their nests. This is espcially true of osprey. 

Plastic however is problematic for wildlife in other ways---it breaks down into tiny particles that can exist in the environment for thousands of years. Our oceans are full of plastics. Wild birds often consume the smaller plastic particles mistaking them for planton and other food sources. Coastal rehab facilities often recieve wild seabirds that are starving to death because their digestive tracks are pacxked with plastics. Recent efforts to ban plastic bags in the Oregon legislature are a good step in the right direction.

We will not go in and remove garbage from the nest. Interfering with the nest during while it is active would be a violation of federla law. It would also pose far more of a direct hazard to the birds than anything that is actually in the nest. 

Bob Sallinger