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Osprey season is in swing on islands, TIOF reports

By TIOF - | Feb 16, 2021

PHOTO PROVIDED Arriving ospreys on a platform created by The International Osprey Foundation.

This familiar quote from the movie, Field of Dreams, “If we build it, they will come,” is just what the board of The International Osprey Foundation is counting on. While it is not the crack of the bat associated with the return of baseball and spring training that it is anxiously awaiting, a much different arrival is anticipated just the same.

All winter, TIOF construction teams have been very busy doing the “building” referred to in that quote. They have been restoring nesting platforms in poor condition and installing new ones all over the area. Why? Because they know that if they build it, the ospreys will come. They will come back to make their homes. And the TIOF recently reported that the ospreys are here.

It is nesting season for the osprey, sometimes called the fish hawk. All over this part of Southwest Florida, migrating ospreys are returning to join the resident osprey population. The hunt is on to find or reestablish a home for the season. Ospreys are birds that exhibit “nest fidelity.” A mated pair will return to the same nest every year, unless weather or a predator has destroyed the nest, or if one or both of the birds has perished in the off season.

Ospreys like to have a “room with a view.” A 360-degree view is preferred. Their nests will be high up in tall trees or snags, as well as on platforms, and sometimes even utility poles. With over 70 active nests on Sanibel and Captiva, there are plenty of opportunities to see the birds in action. Nests can be found out in the bayous, lakes and canals, as well as in parking lots, ball fields and neighborhoods.

First to arrive are the males, followed not long afterward by the females. Home improvement is their first priority. Quite a bit of time and energy is spent restoring the nest before mating and settling down to incubate the eggs and raise young. The males will snag mosses, seaweed and branches, large and small, to bring back to the nest. Strange human-made objects have also been observed in osprey nests — a milk crate, traffic cone, Barbie doll, beverage can rings and monofilament fishing line. While the female has been known to refuse an offering now and then, both birds are very serious about preparing a home for their new family.

Osprey nests are enhanced and rebuilt every year. While nests on platforms tend to be smaller than nests in trees and natural snags, a well-established nest that has been added to year after year can be over 5 feet in diameter and can weigh up to 300 pounds. While not on the federal endangered species list, osprey are considered a species of special concern in Florida. By law, once incubation is observed, the nest should not be tampered with or removed from its location until the end of nesting season, when the chicks have fledged and learned to fish on their own.

To keep an eye on all of the activity, The International Osprey Foundation kicks into high gear. As a part of its mission to preserve the osprey species, teams of TIOF nest monitors are out observing and documenting nest activity from January until Memorial Day. By vehicle, bicycle or kayak, they visit the nests every two weeks — or sometimes more frequently after chicks are observed — during season. The observations are collected and published by the foundation at the end of the season. The data from will also be posted on an international database called Osprey Watch.

With improved water quality, the osprey nesting season is off to a strong start this year on the islands and nearby local communities.

To report an injured bird or accident involving an osprey, contact the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife at 239-472-3644.

For more information about ospreys or TIOF, visit www.ospreys.com.