About the osprey
Nesting: The birds build large nests in high areas with good visibility near the water. Trees and bridges both fit the bill.
Range: Ospreys live on every continent except Antarctica, but they must make their home near a major body of water since their diet is made up almost exclusively of fish.
Population: Numbers dwindled in the 1950s due to pesticide use but have rebounded since then.
Size: Wingspan is up to 6 feet, and the body can be as tall as 23 inches. They weigh about 3 or 4 pounds.
Transportation plans usually affect humans, not a federally protected bird of prey.
But, it’s both in the case of the green Boling Bridge, or the Dawsonville Highway crossing from Hall County into Forsyth County.
As part of its plans to replace the bridge, which spans the Chestatee River arm of Lake Lanier, the Georgia Department of Transportation will take down the current structure, which features an overhead truss system.
And because the upper beams of that system have served for years as a favorite nesting spot for ospreys, the fish-eating creatures will have to find a new home.
To meet that need, DOT is working with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to identify two places where it can put up 30-foot-tall nesting platforms, DOT district spokeswoman Teri Pope said.
The birds aren’t “native to our area, so we don’t have those (platforms) set up like other states do,” she said.
The structures likely will be placed on the bridge’s Forsyth side, which the birds seem to favor, and north and south of the bridge, Pope said.
The structures could cost a total of $3,000.
Ospreys have long called Boling Bridge home, forcing DOT several years ago to work around their migratory season in making much-needed repairs to the truss system.
As part of that work, workers removed a nest and delivered it to the Elachee Nature Science Center in Gainesville.
An Elachee employee later built a 4-foot-by-4-foot wooden platform to support the nest in an exhibit.
It’s had to be fixed up a little, but the nest is still at the center, Elachee Education Director Peter Gordon said.
The overall bridge project, which involves the DOT buying seven pieces of right of way, is estimated to cost $15.2 million and is set to go out for bids by next year.
As part of the work, the current bridge “can only be demolished outside the nesting season,” Pope said.
Gordon said he’s “sure the birds will come back looking for where their nests were,” but he said he also believes they’ll return to the area — same as they did after the DOT’s 2010 project.
“And if those platforms are acceptable to them, I feel there’s a pretty good chance they would nest there,” Gordon said.