Some incredible info about the NJ Osprey, courtesy of the NJ Sea Grant Consortium.

The Osprey is also known as the Fish Hawk, and is a familiar sight for Jersey Shore birdwatchers. But that wasn't always the case. Nearly done in by pesticides like DDT, coupled with the loss of natural nesting sites, Ospreys were placed on our state's endangered species list a while back.

Today they are a conservation success story. Between the construction of nesting platforms and the banning of DDT, it is estimated that there are now upwards of 600 nesting pairs in our state.

You've probably seen this bird hovering over the ocean before diving in, feet first, to catch fish...or heard its loud, chirping call. The Osprey is a gifted fisher with an outermost toe that opposes the rest to grasp its prey head first. Like all raptors, its eyesight is also extraordinary -- about 8 times better than 20/20 so it can easily detect even the iridescent markings of a young summer flounder.

Back when DDT was used, pesticide residue would wash into waterways and collect inside small fish. Since an Osprey eats many small fish (its diet is about 99% fish), DDT became increasingly concentrated in the body of the birds. The effect was that female Ospreys were no longer able to produce a viable egg.

(NJ Sea Grant Consortium)
(NJ Sea Grant Consortium)

Ospreys have an unusually long lifespan, as far as birds go,and can live to be 15-20 years old. Over the years, that means this bird can rack up over 160,000 miles of travel during its migration (NJ's Osprey's primarily winter in South America.)

Ospreys are monogamous and mate for life. One theory for their marital success might be that mates migrate separately and don't see each other again until they return to their nest in springtime. Ospreys migrate as individuals, not in groups or flocks. Even the juveniles fly alone. Usually females leave the nesting area first, followed by the males, then the juveniles.

Ospreys are still listed as threatened in our state. Specially constructed nest platforms and other structures like channel markers and utility poles have become vital to the Osprey's recovery. Sadly, a growing cause of death for Ospreys is pollution and entanglement at the nest. The adults use debris when building their nests. They'll use anything they find in the ocean, even discarded fishing lines, twine or ribbons from balloons. But these can end up wrapped around a chick's feet and injure it or keep it from leaving the nest :(

Think of this the next time your litter may end up in the ocean.

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