MnDOT paused painting bridge in southeastern Minnesota to save baby owls

23December 2021

Road work can come to a screeching halt for myriad of reasons, and this fall in southeastern Minnesota it was all because of a nest of baby barn owls.

Crews painting the Wabasha-Nelson Bridge spanning the Mississippi River and connecting Wabasha, Minn., with Nelson, Wis., spotted five newborns nestled inside the steel structure on Oct. 5 and put part of the job on hold.

The foreman and his team went the extra mile to ensure the fledglings survived. They modified a protective containment area near the nest, leaving an opening so adults could fly in and the youngsters could get out. Crews delayed work in the area of the nest until the owls flew the coop.

“An inspector said, let’s stop here and think up a new plan,” said MnDOT spokesman Mike Dougherty. The crew “adopted the owls. We worked with the DNR to come up with a plan so the birds would not be disturbed or trapped.”

MnDOT says it is not uncommon to find critters under bridges and other structures while working in the field. In this case, the birds were close to leaving the nest, so crews moved on and painted other sections of the bridge until Oct. 15 when the baby owls flew away.

“They are beautiful,” one person wrote on the agency’s Facebook page, which shows a video of the baby birds under the bridge. “Thank you so much for working with them and around them.”

“Thank you for taking their well-being into consideration,” another poster wrote.

This is not the first time birds have nested on the bridge. About seven years ago, a pair of peregrine falcons took up residence in a nesting box under the girders, Dougherty said.

“We focus on the bridge as part of the transportation system and a way to get across the Mississippi River, but it does become a home for creatures,” he said.

This post was originally published on this site

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