ROULETTE — As part of ongoing efforts to protect nesting birds and prevent power outages, West Penn Power, a subsidiary of FirstEnergy Corp., has installed two nesting platforms on 55-foot wooden poles near the Allegheny River. This proactive work will help prevent power outages by discouraging ospreys from returning to existing nests atop utility poles along Pomeroy Street when they fly back to Pennsylvania in the coming weeks.

The existing nests were located on utility poles carrying power lines that pass through the center of town. Customers have experienced outages over the years as ospreys freshened their large nests with additional sticks and branches, some of which contacted the wire causing power interruptions.

West Penn Power line workers recently removed two unoccupied nests from the utility poles while the ospreys wintered in South America. Crews used a track digger to navigate swampy, off-road terrain and set the tall poles topped by wide nesting platforms. Fitted with perch arms, the towering platforms stand closer to the river’s edge.

“These birds typically return to the same nesting sites as the year before,” said Amy Ruszala, an environmental scientist and avian expert at FirstEnergy. “We hope the new platforms provide more enticing nesting locations near the ospreys’ fishing grounds along the Allegheny River when they return to lay eggs in April.”

Ospreys and other birds of prey prefer tall structures including electric transmission towers and poles to build their nests, which can measure up to three feet in width. These nesting habits often place the birds near energized electrical equipment – jeopardizing their well-being and potentially causing power outages.

Ospreys can be persistent about rebuilding nests in the exact same spots, Ruszala warned, recounting how some birds have defeated plastic nesting deterrents fitted onto cross arms, plastering mud and bits of cornstalks over their sharp edges.

“It’s an ongoing battle,” she said. “If they get a toehold, they can build a full-blown nest in a matter of two days.”