My Osprey countdown is in full swing. I’m anticipating the days until these magnificent fish-eating birds make their way north for nesting season.
I love everything about these birds.
Their stunning beauty. Quirky personality. Unique racing stripes on their head. Lifestyle choice of waterfront property. And of course, their fish-based diet.
As a proud member of the Connecticut Audubon Society, it’s thrilling to learn in the latest Osprey Nation report that these birds are thriving in Connecticut.
In 2020, 231 volunteers (stewards) documented 510 active nests, the most since Connecticut Audubon’s Osprey Nation project began in 2014.
A population recovery that stands as one of the greatest conservation success stories of recent decades continues for the Osprey once near extinction 50 years ago.
The use of the pesticide DDT in salt marshes and elsewhere to kill mosquitoes made its way to the water and the fish these birds eat.
Other bird species like Bald Eagles, Peregrine Falcons, and Brown Pelicans were affected by DDT too.
The toxic compounds in DDT caused birds to lay their eggs with shells that were too thin and fragile to withstand incubation.
As a result, fewer eggs were hatching live chicks. During that time, there was a dramatic decline of the Osprey populations between the 1940s and 1970.
Since the ban of DDT in 1972, the Osprey population has made a comeback.
In 1976 the bird was listed as Endangered, and in 1983, downgraded to Threatened. Since 1999, this bird is now a Species of Special Concern.
Indicators of Environmental Health
As fish-eating birds, they’re excellent indicators of Long Island Sound’s health and its bays and Connecticut’s rivers and lakes.
If the bird’s populations or productivity fall off over several years, it’s an indicator something is wrong.
“One of Osprey Nation’s goals is to serve as an early warning system,” says Patrick Comins, executive director of Connecticut Audubon.
The project is documenting population trends that would signal to ecologists and officials that fish populations are relatively healthy or that contaminants are harming the fish and the birds.
Connecticut’s Osprey Population is Going Strong
COVID-19 created challenges for the Osprey Nation in 2020, but they rose to the challenge.
Osprey Nation’s 213 volunteers confirm that 549 young Ospreys fledged.
Many stewards dropped out because of the pandemic, so 549 is based on incomplete data. Based on the number of nests reported, Connecticut Audubon estimates approximately 744 young Ospreys fledged in 2020.
“Although 744 is an estimate, we’re confident that it’s solid and that the state’s Osprey population is strong,” says Milan Bull, Connecticut Audubon’s senior director of science and conservation.
As someone who loves these birds, I’m grateful to the Osprey Nation’s members for their hard work ensuring that one of my favorite birds continues to thrive.
How You Can Help
We all can help save birds through our own personal acts.
If you live in Connecticut and want to become an Osprey Nation steward, go here.
Maybe counting nests isn’t your thing, then consider donating to the Connecticut Audubon.
Or become a member. I’m a proud member of the Connecticut Audubon. My favorite preserve to visit is Deer Pond Farm in Sherman, Connecticut, home to 100 species of birds during the breeding season.
Hope to see you there on the trails this spring!