Boost for Ospreys
Without a lot of fanfare, the Iowa and Cedar River valleys are turning into a pretty decent osprey territory. More birds and nests are noticed in northwest Iowa, as well. Of course, there is a lot of human help, but reproduction holds promise for re-establishing this ‘fish hawk’ here.
Installation of two more nesting platforms along the Cedar River provides additional options for wandering ospreys to put down roots, so to speak, as they mature.
“We have five active nests in the Coralville Reservoir/Lake Macbride vicinity. There are two in Linn County; four more in Black Hawk County…so the Cedar/Iowa River Corridor is a stronghold,” stresses Pat Schlarbaum of the Department of Natural Resources wildlife diversity program.
Nesting platforms, mounted on 30-foot utility poles, are now in place; provided by utility crews from Alliant Energy, at the Prairie Park Fishery and Indian Creek Nature Center, along the Cedar River in southeast Cedar Rapids. The wooden platforms, with a few ‘starter limbs’ lashed into place are within openings in the tree canopy…visible to nest-shopping ospreys.
“What we’re trying to do is to bring ospreys back…especially eastern Iowa,” explains Alliant spokesman Justin Foss. “Before settlers came, they were in Iowa. They’ve disappeared since. (With the) platforms, when the birds come in the spring, they will have a place to call home.”
The plan is for birds hacked (introduced to an area, to eventually grow and fly) or hatched around eastern Iowa…to take over the platform and surrounding river territory, as they mature and nest.
Not a lot was known about Iowa ospreys, as early wildlife surveys were established. They are a bird of big waters. And in Iowa, we didn’t have much of that; outside the border rivers and the natural lakes in northwest Iowa.
“The native tribes; the Dakotas, Yankton, Omahas told of ospreys in northwest Iowa. They were nesting there,” assures Schlarbaum. “Now, the large reservoirs--built in last 50-60 years--are big draws.”
Ospreys are recognized by the mostly white undersides of their wings…but with black ‘elbow’ feathering. They know how to put on a show, too.
“They will fly a few hundred feet in the air, see a fish, and go down maybe 40 miles an hour, under water and grab the fish in their talons; come up and fly away,” describes Foss. “That makes them very unique birds.”
Schlarbaum says 10 young osprey will be ‘hacked’ in Iowa this year. Placed in large shelters, they are fed and monitored by humans before being released to fly and imprint on their new territory. Still, the ‘net’ gain is aided by natural reproduction.
“We released 19 birds last year; but know of 27 young,” notes Schlarbaum.