A New Beginning + Coley Update

Last Wednesday, May 15th, I returned to Jamaica Bay to check in on Coley and to begin the second phase of our Jamaica Bay Osprey Research Program with a new male. I am happy to report that I saw Coley on his perch above the nest and his mate eating a fish and offering tiny pieces to one or more newly hatched young. A great family setting and the end of a year-long learning adventure. Good Luck Coley – Live Long and Prosper!

On to the new story. Our field team of Jamaica Bay Guardian Don Riepe of the American Littoral Society, Park Naturalist Colleen Sorbera of Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, Blanca Begert of New York Harbor Conservancy, our web designer Sheryl Eisenberg of Mixit Productions and yours truly headed out by boat to Yellow Bar Hassock in Jamaica Bay to attempt to catch and place Coley’s satellite transmitter on a new male. Happily, we caught the female within minutes and after several almost captures, we caught the male.

Retrieving the male from the nest

Retrieving the male from his nest

Once we had him in hand, we immediately noticed that he was banded with a US Fish & Wildlife aluminum band numbered 788-49081, which meant that he had probably been banded as a nestling and we could determine his age and origin – very important information for our research effort.


Our new Osprey in hand & equipped with his GPS gear (see antenna on his back)

Here is what we have learned about our new guy:

  • He was banded as a nestling on July 8th, 2008 so he is 5 years old. We know from banding data that one Osprey lived for at least 25 years and 2 months so he is a fairly young Osprey.
  • He was likely about 5 to 6 weeks old when banded, so I guess that his hatching date was on June 1st, 2008.
  • He was banded by National Parks Naturalist Jeanne McArthur-Heuser, who has been monitoring and banding Ospreys on Sandy Hook, New Jersey for over two decades. Here is her report:

That osprey was banded at the Officer’s Club in Fort Hancock, NJ [part of Gateway National Recreation Area as is Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge]. There was one only 1 chick and 1 infertile egg. The Highlands Fire Department assisted with reaching the nest by using their aerial ladder.

Left: Location of birth nest in Fort Hancock, NJ; Right: Fire engine helping bander reach nest on top of chimney in 2008 (photo by Jeanne McArthur-Heuser)

Left: Location of birth nest in Fort Hancock, NJ; Right: Fire engine helping bander reach nest on top of chimney in 2008 (photo by Jeanne McArthur-Heuser)

  • He is an only child, at least from his parent’s nesting in 2008.
  • His hatching nest was actually built on top of the chimney of the Officer’s Club, a large brick building.
  • Ospreys, like the White Storks of Europe, often nest on chimneys, and on many man-made structures such as telephone poles, cell towers, channel markers and duck blinds.
  • Distance from his hatching nest to his current nest – 12.85 miles. Usually young Ospreys return to nest within 50 miles of their hatching nest.
  • This may be his first nesting, as the nest platform was only recently constructed and had not been used before.
  • Also, his new nest was not well constructed with minimal nesting material suggesting that this may be the first time that our bird and his mate have nested.
  • The nest contained three eggs that were present on the bare wood floor of the platform. Usually Osprey nests have more substance to them and the nest is lined with eel grass or some other soft material.
His nest with 3 eggs on the bare wood floor of the platform

His nest with 3 eggs on the bare wood floor of the platform

  • His wingspan was 58 inches, and his mate’s wingspan was 60 inches – male Ospreys are smaller than females.
  • The nest is located in the center of the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge on the southeast side of Yellow Bar Hassock, a marsh island. If you are looking toward the northwest with the nest in front of you, the New York skyline and particularly the new Freedom Tower figures prominently on the horizon.
  • Movements are very similar to Coley’s staying in Jamaica Bay mostly within a few miles of his nest to fish and possible to roost with an occasional flight to the shores of JFK International.

We will keep the transmitter on our new guy for one year so that we can follow him through this nesting season and during his migrations to and from his wintering grounds. Of course, we have not a clue where that might be.

Flying away with his new GPS transmitter

Flying away with his new GPS transmitter

More as the adventure unfolds.

Coley and our new friend, and Dr. Bob signing off.

Bull’s eyes = Osprey’s location every hour.
Lines = Sequence of locations in time (not the actual flight path)

Click the Sat(ellite), Ter(rain) or Earth buttons on the map for alternate views. The Earth view requires you to have the free Google Earth software on your computer. For a larger map, go to Google Maps or download the KML file to view in your copy of Google Earth.


  1. Gonna miss Coley a lot

    • So will we! We’re hoping to get occasional news about him from park rangers and will post it here if we do.

      Meanwhile, there are a couple of opportunities this weekend to see and hear about him and his family from rangers at the “Awesome Osprey” program at the Wildlife Refuge: http://www.nps.gov/gate/planyourvisit/event-details.htm?eventID=475713-232573.

  2. Thanks so much for the update on Coley and his family. I hope the chicks do well. Best wishes to the new young osprey and his mate, and wishing you success in the next year’s research program!!

    • Thank you!

  3. How many Ospreys live at the Wildlife refuge. I thought it was just Coley and his mate?

    • Quite a few more, actually. In 2010, there were 12 breeding pairs. We will see if we can get this year’s count for you.

      • There are 17 active nests this year, according to Don Riepe.

  4. I wish Coley and family the best of luck. It’s been a joy as well as learning experience following his migration and movements. I look forward to seeing the route that this new male will take (what’s his name by the way?). I’d also like to thank all involved in this project for your work and, as a resident New Yorker, for giving me a deeper connection to the natural world around me.

  5. Congratulations to Coley and his new family. Am looking forward to updates of them. Also thank you Dr. Bob for sharing all these wonderful reports with us. I am looking forward to following news with your new the new adventure. I am also following our IBSP ospreys on the Osprey Cam. As of now the four eggs still havent hatched. Madelyn