Birds cause changes to bridge construction schedule

Construction crews knew once they started work on the new Eggners Ferry Bridge, they’d be working in elements. But they didn’t plan on one of those elements — wildlife — changing their plans. 

Ospreys are birds that often build nests on the bridge to have a prime fishing location for their young.

Robert Webster went to the bridge to watch the ospreys and the construction progress, and he noticed the nests popping up. 

“They were trying to keep them cleaned out for a while, but they found out that it didn’t do no good,” Webster said. 

Crews are allowed to remove nests as long as they’re empty, but the most recent nests found have eggs in them. That changes things. Nests with eggs are protected by the federal government under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. 

Kate Heyden, non-game avian biologist for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, told Local 6 the department has been working with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet since plans for the new bridge began. She said they tried to to encourage the birds to build nests elsewhere by providing nesting platforms, but they haven’t been as successful as they hoped. Now that eggs are in the nests, the construction plans will have to change.

“We discourage activity in the immediate vicinity of the nest at this point and time because it’s going to flush the adults off the eggs, and it’s important the beating behavior isn’t disrupted,” Heyden said. 

Ospreys are not endangered in Kentucky, but their population is carefully monitored. They are considered a species of greatest conservation need, which is why any eggs are protected. 

“The Transportation Cabinet is accommodating nests that contain eggs by adjusting their construction activities to make sure the birds have every chance at hatching those eggs,” Heyden said. 

KYTC released a statement saying:

“The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, the contractor, the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife, and other agencies are in discussions to determine how to best protect the nesting ospreys while allowing construction work to continue on the New Eggners Ferry Bridge over Kentucky Lake.  The various agencies are currently monitoring how well the ospreys are tolerating construction activity and will determine what level of activity is appropriate near the nests where eggs are present.”

The Transportation Cabinet didn’t elaborate on any immediate changes, but Local 6 has confirmed about 40 construction workers have been laid off the site since the eggs were discovered. Experts say the nesting cycle takes about 15 weeks for eggs to hatch and little ospreys to learn to fly. 

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