With a careful toss from skilled hands, the osprey’s journey from near-death to new life began. RAPTOR Inc., Southwest Ohio and Northern Kentucky’s premier raptor rehabilitation organization, returned the magnificent bird of prey to its natural habitat on Saturday, August 1 at Campbell Lakes, part of the Great Parks of Hamilton County, located in Harrison, Ohio.
The bird was found injured on June 25 by Ranger Shannon, a Great Parks Ranger, and admitted to RAPTOR Inc. for care. The bird sustained trauma from an unknown source which left it grounded, weak and thin, with parasites and a broken toe. During its rehabilitation the bird improved slowly and steadily, until it could fly. Then it began reconditioning in a huge flight enclosure to prepare for its release. The entire rehabilitation process took approximately 5 weeks.
According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, ospreys are North American raptors uniquely adapted to feed almost exclusively on live fish. They dive feet-first into the top meter of water to catch the fish near the surface. All but the southernmost populations are migratory, traveling annually from Alaska and Canada to Central and South America. They build conspicuous stick nests in open areas over or near water, often on man-made structures like poles, channel markers and platforms built specifically for nesting birds.
Their numbers plummeted between 1950 and 1980, when pesticides like DDT were in common use. Pesticide bans and construction of artificial nest sites have allowed osprey populations to rebound, but the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife still considered ospreys rare or absent in Hamilton County until 2012, when ospreys were removed from Ohio’s “threatened species” list.
Ospreys are uncommon admissions to rehabilitation facilities and are exceptionally challenging to successfully rehabilitate. They often refuse to eat in captivity and are prone to self-induced injury. The last osprey admitted by RAPTOR Inc. was in 2012. Fortunately, the Campbell Lakes osprey arrived with a voracious appetite. Dedicated and generous RAPTOR Inc. volunteers and fishermen like Joe Lucas and Zan and Liz Smith provided the bird with a steady supply of local fish, allowing it to gain strength.
Jeff Hays, long-time RAPTOR Inc. volunteer, researcher and licensed bird bander, placed a band on the leg of the osprey prior to its release. The band numbers can be used to collect indispensable information regarding the movement, survival and behavior of North American avian species. Analysis of this information can direct important conservation and management decisions.
posted by Jackie Bray
August 7, 2015