City Light: Lonely osprey risks a lot looking for love

City Light: Lonely osprey risks a lot looking for love »Play Video
A view of a nest built by the lonely male osprey on a high-voltage transmission tower along the Duwamish River. (Photo courtesy Seattle City Light.)

SEATTLE - Could it be a case of the Seattle freeze? The osprey nesting season may be winding down, but it seems one lonely male is determined to find a suitable home for next year, even if it means putting his own life on the line - literally.

Last month, workers with Seattle City Light noticed a large osprey nest on top of a transmission tower along the Duwamish River, near Hamm Creek. While Scott Thomsen, spokesperson for City Light, said it's not uncommon for the utility to see these types of nests on towers, this particular case is a little unusual.

"Often times we see a mating pair of birds looking to care for fledged chicks," Thomsen said. "But, in this instance we only have a single male osprey that seems to be trying to keep himself really busy or make himself more attractive to potential mates."

Several times City Light has removed the bird's nest only to see it reappear.

"He is very determined," Thomsen said.

Regardless of the bird's motivation, building a home on top of electrical towers is not a good idea for the bird's safety and for business, according to City Light.

"The nest material could catch fire and burn off, we could have a short that takes place, and if we get to these points there is potential to damage equipment and cause an outage," Thomsen said.

Earlier this summer, City Light workers had to remove an osprey nest on top of another transmission tower that ended up causing a short circuit.

"These birds' favorite place to build a nest is in a tree where the top has been broken off," Thomsen said. "With developments in the area, a lot of those natural opportunities are not there; and that's when the birds look at a transmission tower or utility pole and say, 'That looks like a good replacement.'"

Jim Kaiser, owner of Osprey Solutions, LLC, believes the lonely male is actually preparing for next year after successfully raising two young osprey with a mate.

"My speculation is that he is seeking an alternate nest site on a taller transmission tower away from human activity," Kaiser said.

Knowing this, utility crews have added rubber insulation and covers around lines in hopes of protecting the birds and avoiding outages. They have also built several nesting platforms to provide the osprey with an alternate site to set up shop.

"We are trying to do these to support the bird and their continued recovery in this area while at the same time making sure we continue to deliver reliable service to our customers," Thomsen said.

According to City Light, the platforms seem to be working well at Harbor Island, Tukwila, the Ship Canal, and it's most recent site at Commodore Park.

Currently, City Light crews are scouting out potential areas to build a nesting platform for the male osprey. Once a site is found, Thomsen said it won't take long to put up. And, who knows, maybe a new home will help land the bird some new love.

In total, Kaiser said the Seattle area has between 25 to 35 nesting pairs of osprey, with two to four new pairs arriving each year.