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With the spring season upon us in the Atlanta area there are a number of images that come to mind. Most of us might picture flowers blooming, picnics in the park, or an evening at the ballpark. But what does spring mean to the telecom industry? It means that the weather is ideal for site walks. It also means bird nesting season.

That’s right. I never thought going into the telecom industry I would have to know so much about birds and their nests. For many bird species, cell towers serve as the perfect location for nesting. The reason? These steel structures often rise far above the tree line providing the occupants with a bird’s eye view of nearby feeding grounds. With such a perfect location it can be difficult to prevent birds from nesting, even with deterrents such as effigies and audible irritants. Although I’m happy the birds have found an ideal nesting location, this situation isn’t always convenient for the telecom employee.

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) makes it illegal to take, possess, import, export, transport, sell, purchase, barter, or offer for sale, any migratory bird, or the parts, nests, or eggs of such a bird. Just by entering a cellular compound you could be inadvertently disturbing a nest which could result in a “take.” That’s where it gets tricky. You mean that even going near the cell tower, I could inadvertently do something illegal? Thankfully, I’ve learned a few tricks along the way to help mitigate any disturbance of the birds.

Things to keep in mind as a telecom worker this summer:

1) Visit sites in the early mornings – To minimize your chance of an MBTA violation the Environmental Corporation of America recommends “limiting work to short periods early in the morning before overheating of eggs or young becomes a danger.” If there is a nest at the site, chances are your presence will scare away the mother. If the mother leaves the nest during a hot part of the day, it leaves the offspring exposed to the elements.

2) Avoid work during rain – The Environmental Corporation of America also recommends that “work during rain events or below average temperatures should be avoided.” This recommendation stems from the same danger of the mother leaving the nest during unfavorable weather conditions. It’s best to let her stay covering her offspring during their most vulnerable times of the day.

3) Consult with the tower’s environmental team – Many of the leading tower owners have a dedicated environmental team on hand to help determine the status of the nest. As a consultant, I can always check with the environmental team to learn more about the bird inhabitants of that particular area. They might be able to tell me that the nest is inactive, which can allow me to perform my work without causing a disturbance. There are also protocols for workers to report a new nest, and extensive signage on sites with existing nests to assist workers in protecting the inhabitants.

Additional protocol to maintain safety for the birds can be found on the American Tower Corporation (ATC) website.

Now you’re beginning to understand how the presence of a single bird could potentially halt or terminate an entire project. Hopefully the above tips can help navigate these situations if you ever encounter it. Remember, if you fail to take action then you just might Egret it.

About Mark Merritt

Mark Merritt is a Project Manager for the Wireless Services division at Foresite Group out of our Denver, CO office. He has a Bachelor of Science in Forestry from Southeastern Technical College, with more than two years’ experience in the wireless services industry. His focus lies in the deployment of LTE technology, as well as assisting with raw-land and co-location site analysis and design.


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