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Danger In the Nest: Osprey & Baling Twine

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How you can help:

  • What can you do?

  • When will these projects be most effective?

  • Why should we help clean up baling twine?

a pair of osprey on a nesting platform. One is flying in with a fish.

"Charlotte" and "Charlie" on their nest in Charlo, Montana. One of their two chicks died from being tangled in baling twine in 2021. 

Why is baling twine dangerous for Osprey?

 

When used baling twine is left in a field or pasture, Osprey will pick it up to use as nesting material. This can have devastating consequences for the birds.

Adult Osprey tangled in baling twine can become unable to fly and trapped in their nest (or stuck dangling from the nest) or can slowly lose toes—or a leg—due to cut-off circulation. When the chicks are tangled, they are less able to move around in the nest, which means they are less able to get to food their parents bring back, and they can slowly be outcompeted by their larger siblings and starve. If the baling twine is wrapped tight around a leg or wing, the chicks can lose limbs or toes, which means they won’t be able to hunt and will slowly starve. 

Read more about the tangled chick at the Charlo nest here: Danger in the nest: Osprey and Baling Twine

 

How You Can Help

What can YOU do?

 

1. Clean up your baling twine!

  • Pick up used twine as you are baling and unbaling hay. It may be an extra step to check that no twine has been left behind, but will benefit the health of wildlife, livestock, and your farm equipment!

  • When transporting twine or baled hay, check that it is secured and will not blow off the backs of trucks or trailers.

  • Store any loose twine in closed plastic containers or inside buildings, out of reach from birds of prey

  • When you come across loose baling twine laying around, collect it up!

  • Go one step further, and leave sticks, lichens, mosses around your property for birds of prey to use for their nests!

 

How do I dispose of twine properly?

To dispose of the twine in a safe way that will keep it out of the environment, put it inside of a strong plastic bag, bin, or cardboard box that can be closed securely before throwing it away. Remember, twine can easily get caught on things or blow away, so packaging it inside a bag or box for disposal will help keep it from getting loose. Some areas also have drop-off sites or recycling programs that accept twine. Consider starting a baling twine recycling program or disposal site in your town!

 

Learn more:

2. Organize a local twine clean-up program

Looking for a service project? Get your local group together for a day of picking up baling twine, or organize a community event through your school, local club, scout troop, 4-H, or other group.

 

Where should we focus on cleaning up twine?

  • Focus on areas near nesting osprey and along rivers, near lakes, and reservoirs up to a two-mile distance away from bodies of water and nests.

  • Look along rural roadways where twine may have fallen from vehicles (SAFETY FIRST – always have an adult present and do not stop by the side of busy roads!). Also along fence lines where twine can sometimes get snagged.

  • Agricultural land where baling twine is used (fields where livestock was fed with hay, or where hay was grown and baled)

 

3. Educate others on the dangers of baling twine for Osprey

  • Use our brochure to pass out information to friends, neighbors, at fairs and schools, etc. You can download and print the brochure (see Resources and More Information) or email us at info@owlresearchinstitute.org for some free copies of the brochure.

  • Make your own presentation or poster on Osprey, baling twine, and cleaning it up! You can present at county fairs, school presentations, community centers, libraries, and more. There’s lots of information [here – link to Lauren’s page]

  • Start a conversation! Talk to your friends, family, and neighbors about how to keep baling twine safe.

Note on land access: 

A good place to start is with your own property and friends and neighbors, with their permission. Most agricultural fields are private property, which means that they are owned by someone. Going onto private property without permission is trespassing. Always ask the landowner for permission before accessing private property. Bring a copy of the brochure, explain who you are and what you are doing, and bring an adult with you for safety. On public lands, there can be some restrictions. Please check with an adult or ORI biologist [info@owlresearchinstitute.org] who can help you with getting more information on public lands.

When will these projects be most effective? 

Osprey return from their wintering grounds in early April. They begin to rebuild their nests and continue to bring material to the nest from April through July. A good time to make sure all twine is picked up would be in the spring after any snow melts, and throughout the nesting season, but there is never a bad time of year to clean it up to protect wildlife!

 

WHY should we help clean up baling twine?

Keeping the areas around our streams, rivers, and lakes clean and free of human trash and waste helps not only the Osprey and the fish they rely on, but all the other wildlife that depend on these habitats. Plus, more pristine landscapes are much nicer for human recreation and sustainability!

 

Not only does recycling or disposing of baling twine help Osprey and other wildlife, it also benefits ranchers, farmers, and others who have livestock or horses. Baling twine typically ends up in a landfill, piles up on a landowner’s property (where it can gum up machinery or be eaten by livestock and cattle, causing serious digestive issues or death), or is burned (which is unsafe, due to the toxic fumes emitted).

We have the potential to save birds with simple changes and knowledge!

Thank you for making a difference for Osprey!

 
cover of Osprey & baling twine, danger for osprey! brochure

Resources and More Information

Other Organizations

A long-term study of Osprey ecology and heavy metal contamination in Montana's upper Clark Fork River and its tributaries. 

A non-profit research and education organization that  provides knowledge of raptors and the ecosystems that support them to the public and scientific community, through research, conservation, and education.

The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT) Tribal Wildlife Management Program (TWMP) works to manage and protect the lands and wildlife on the Flathead Indian Reservation.