Ospreys

The Osprey, sometimes referred to as the fish eagle, is one of the most well-known raptors in the New York Harbor area. These birds are easily recognizable and fascinating to observe, with wing spans of about 5 feet, brown and white patterned feathers and large, incredibly strong talons.

Fish make up 99% of Ospreys’ diet and are most frequently sighted near bodies of water–rivers, lakes, and coastal areas. One of the most prevalent birds of prey, they are found on every continent except Antarctica. Ospreys are migratory birds and travel great distances between the summer breeding areas in North America and their wintering grounds in Central and South America.

Once a major feature in the Northeast region’s ecosystem, populations on the Atlantic coast plummeted in the 1950s and 1960s due to use of DDT, a pesticide that weakened the shells of Osprey eggs to the point that chicks could not survive.  The severity of the threat was compounded by the birds’ position at the top of the food chain due to the bioaccumulation process–the chemical would continue to build up in Osprey’s bodies as they consumed prey that carried DDT. After the ban of DDT in 1972, the species population has seen a drastic recovery, and indeed in 2010 there were 12 breeding pairs at Jamaica Bay alone.

Ospreys build large nests of sticks and driftwood in conspicuous locations including telephone poles, channel markers and other high platforms near bodies of water.  In many areas nesting platforms are built specifically to encourage local breeding.  The birds acclimate to humans very quickly, and often can be found nesting very close to developed areas.

In the late spring and throughout the summer, breeding pairs of Osprey will incubate and raise their chicks. Laying typical clutches of one to four white and brown speckled eggs, both the male and female will incubate and feed the chicks. The eggs hatch over the course of multiple days, which results in older chicks that are physically stronger and able to monopolize the food brought by the parents. If food is scarce, the younger chicks often do not survive.

Ospreys hunt by slowly flying and circling over shallow water to seek out prey. When they spot their catch they may hover briefly prior to making the dive, feet first, to snatch the fish. It is not unusual to see the catch in the bird’s talons as the bird carries it back to its nest. Indeed, Ospreys are one of only two raptor species with a reversible toe, allowing them to form a pincer of sorts to grasp their slippery prey.

Gateway National Recreation Area has active Osprey nesting pairs at all three of its units – Staten Island, Sandy Hook, and Jamaica Bay. While these birds are known to leave the park every fall for the southern migration, exact details and destinations are not known. GPS tracking of an adult Osprey will provide an in depth look at the species’ life history, and offer crucial insight into our understanding of these fascinating birds.

Comments

  1. I love this story. It’s hearwarming that you are watching and appreciating your osprey.
    We live across from Ocean Beach Park, New London CT and have a healthy active osprey nesting site on a light pole..The osprey nest here for decades.. Some want to take the nest down and make the light pole into a clock tower.. very sad indeed. We may lose our osprey forever. my email: newenglandrealtor@yahoo.com

  2. Havent been able to be online this past week and have missed the updates. Glad to see Coleys journey
    is almost to his winter lodgings. Good work Coley.
    This is all new to me and I’ve become a huge fan.

  3. I was delighted to read about Coley and your research via the NRDC facebook page. I have loved Ospreys ever since I read a book detailing the return of our Scottish Ospreys after they were extinct in the UK for a number of years. This species is magnificent, I love everything about them! Good luck with your final studies, and thank you for the Osprey’s Journey.

  4. Once again, thank you for the recent information regarding Meo, IBSP osprey. I am new to all of the activity and thank Ben Wurst for catching me up to date. Have gotten my family interested also, several members from out of state. Now if I could keep my websites straight I will have lots and lots of info from everyone. Madelyn

  5. I love how the team takes care of birds very well. I hope this program turns for the best for the birds and the team/ researchers

  6. Happy New Year to all. I really miss all the updates on Coley. Was it ever determined that he had settled down and
    was staying close to home or was there a problem with the
    GPS for more updates. Haven’t been to any of the shore areas parks since the devestation last year. I know there is still alot to be done and some sort of normallacy will return. Will continue to check this webpage. See you in the spring. Madelyn

  7. Thank you for the fine work you and your team are doing to promote this magnificent bird. NOVA did a special in 1986 titled, “Return of the Osprey.” If was encouraging. I grew up on the west side of Marion Lake, in East Marion, NY 11939, which was (and hopefully still is) a haven for this and many other migratory visitor. I remember men coming down to the lake in the early 60′s and spraying this nasty, oily, lung constricting fog around the lake. Our young mother, who often fished here died of liver cancer roughly two years after that. The Osprey’s initial signs of recovery offered hope that this deadly toxin was working its way out of the food chain. They liked to perch in the tall white pines on the west bank of the lake where they’d spy their catch (perch or carp) below. Many years back, Bob Gloria of Orient spearheaded the effort to revive the Osprey population by erecting many of the poles in the remote reaches of the North Fork of Long Island. Similar efforts were undertaken at the Mashomack Preserve on Shelter Island around the same time. It is encouraging to know these birds are thriving again thanks to the stewardship of Dr. Kennedy and others who understand and value the roll these creatures play in our shared habitat. Carry on troops. Godspeed Coley ~

  8. I have just read in todays edition of the Asbury Park Press that a portion of Island Beach State Park has been reopened after Hurricane Sandy. There is alot of work to be done but the good news posted was the Osprey Cam there survived the storm. Something good to look forward to. Will try and go there in the next couple of weeks to see for myself. Was reported that the park hopefully will be completely open for spring. 01/28/13. Madelyn

  9. Are any ospreys back at sandy hook…How did the nesting poles make out after Sandy? Chris

Add Comment