For the Birds

NorthWestern Energy has a number of programs designed to protect avian species.

Avian Conservation

NorthWestern Energy’s Avian Protection Plan (APP)

Watching an osprey dive into the water, sometimes submerging completely before rising from the surface with a struggling fish, leaves a lasting impression. Ospreys are once again a common sight across most of Montana as their populations rebound from the negative effects of DDT, a widely used pesticide that was banned in the 1970s. However, with this wildlife management success story comes some conflict: Ospreys are relatively tolerant of human activity and frequently build nests on power poles. Nests can cause power outages and even fires, and their proximity to energized equipment puts the birds at risk of electrocution. NorthWestern Energy has installed hundreds of platforms to maintain service reliability and to provide a safe place for ospreys to raise their offspring.

NorthWestern Energy’s Avian Protection Plan (APP) incorporates industry best practices developed by the Avian Power Line Interaction Committee, which is a collaboration among the Edison Electric Institute, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and member utilities. The primary goal of an APP is to reduce bird injuries and mortalities from power line collisions and electrocutions. If one species epitomizes the potential for conflict between our electric system and birds it is the osprey.

Check out the Live Osprey Cam

NorthWestern Energy line workers check on an osprey nest.

Check out the Live Osprey Cam

The Montana Osprey Project has a live-stream camera set up at an osprey nest in Missoula.

Exploring Our Avian Protection Plan

Our APP reflects a commitment to environmental stewardship, and fulfilling its provisions to safeguard ospreys is just one example of responsible risk management. Osprey-power line interactions can be complicated, and solving conflicts by practical necessity must involve engineers, linemen and biologists. Implementing our APP includes designing avian-friendly power poles, training line crews, providing information on federal regulations protecting migratory birds and increasing public awareness. In fact, we cooperate with osprey research projects throughout the state and these partnerships have yielded mutually beneficial results. We learn quickly of new osprey nests discovered by citizen scientists participating on these projects, which gives us the opportunity to erect nest platforms in a timely manner. The researchers, in turn, receive donated support to access nestlings for banding.

Soaring Osprey Population

A NorthWestern Energy lineman holds an osprey

Soaring Osprey Population

As Montana's osprey population has rebounded, we are working, alongside Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, Montana Audubon and other partners, to make sure the birds have safe places to nest.

    Avian-safe power poles

    A juvenile red-tailed hawk flies by a transmission line in northcentral Montana.

    Avian-safe power poles

    NorthWestern Energy designs new power poles to reduce bird electrocutions and collisions.

    Meet our bird biologist

    NorthWestern biologist bands an osprey

    Meet our bird biologist

    Previously a wildlife professor for nearly 20 years, Dr. Marco Restani works as a wildlife biologist for NorthWestern Energy and is an avid volunteer with the Yellowstone Valley Audubon Society.

    Partnering to protect eagles

    an egale sits perched on a power pole

    Partnering to protect eagles

    The Eagle Protection and Offset Program, or EPOP, is a remarkable program designed to provide long-term protection to both bald and golden eagles, while streamlining the process for wind project owners needing to fulfill permit requirements.

    Solving an Outage Mystery

    Ravens roost on a 500kv power pole

    Solving an Outage Mystery

    The leading cause of power outages on NorthWestern Energy’s largest transmission line probably isn’t what you’d expect. It’s not wind, or storms, or trees falling on the line. The leading cause of outages is birds, or more specifically, bird poop.

    Learn about the innovative ways we're working to prevent those outages.

    How You Can Help

    Secure baling twine to protect ospreys

    • Baling twine is often found in osprey nests, but it can be deadly to hatchlings and adults who become entangled in it.
    • It’s unclear why ospreys are so attracted to baling twine, but the best way to prevent it from ending up in nests is to pick up all baling twine and store it in buildings or containers with secure lids

    Report osprey nests built on power lines

    NorthWestern Energy has installed hundreds of platforms where ospreys can safely build nests away from power lines.

    However, this time of year when ospreys return to Montana, we often see the birds building nests on power lines. This can cause power outages and even fires, and the nests’ proximity to energized equipment puts the birds at risk of electrocution.

    If you see an osprey nest on a power pole, please report it by calling us at 888-467-2669 or filling out the online form HERE.

    When NorthWestern learns of an osprey nest on one of our poles, we implement the Avian Protection Plan, which includes removing the nest if it does not have ospreys or osprey eggs in it and, in some cases, providing an alternative platform for the ospreys.

    Creating a Bright Future

    Together, we’re working to deliver a bright future.