Penn Power Partners with Observatory to Protect Nesting Birds

Penn Power lineworkers Alex Greathouse and Mike Walsh place a nesting platform near utility poles with a vacated nest.

March 10, 2021

As part of ongoing efforts to protect nesting birds and prevent power outages, Penn Power is partnering with the Erie Bird Observatory to install a nesting platform on top of a 55-foot wooden pole in Mercer County, Pa. This is the second year in a row for the proactive partnership, which is intended to discourage ospreys from nesting on utility poles when they migrate back to the area in the coming weeks.

Ospreys often seek out tall structures like electric transmission towers and poles to build their nests, which can measure up to three feet wide. This puts the birds near energized  equipment, which jeopardizes their well-being and creates the potential for power outages.

Over the past two years, the FirstEnergy Foundation has donated a total of $10,000 to the Erie Bird Observatory to fund the construction of nesting platforms in western Pennsylvania. Penn Power has worked with the organization to install seven  platforms adjacent to utility poles that have experienced high levels of osprey activity.

“We’ve seen a significant spike in the osprey population over recent years,” said Amy Ruszala, advanced scientist, Transmission Permitting, and avian expert. “We anticipate that this year will be no different, since the birds typically return to the same nesting sites.”

Under the partnership, an osprey nest on utility poles is removed during the winter, while the birds have migrated south. Then a platform is constructed away from the lines to attract birds and encourage them to make new nests away from our equipment.

Ospreys prefer to nest near bodies of water. Last year, three  platforms were built near the Shenango River Lake. This year, a new 5-square-foot wooden  platform was installed on top of an existing utility pole that previously served as a prime nesting habitat for the birds on the Shenango River.

Ospreys will return to the area in late March. They typically lay their eggs between April and July.