2018 a ‘Banner Year’ for New Jersey Ospreys

Feb 13, 2019
File Photo by: Ryan Morrill

Last year was a good year for the state’s ospreys. According to Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey, it was actually the best year yet for a species that has been in recovery since the use of DDT in the 1950s led to reproduction failure, coupled with an increasing loss of habitat along shorelines.

New Jersey listed the osprey as endangered in 1974, and numbers began to rise after a nationwide ban on DDT and enhanced efforts to construct and maintain nesting platforms.

A total of 932 young were produced in 2018, which “is the most ever in the project’s history,” said Ben Wurst, CWF habitat program manager, referring to the New Jersey Osprey Project. “The average productivity rate, which is a measure of the health of the population, was 1.82 young/active (known-outcome) nests, and slightly above results over the past three years.”

Last year “was yet another banner year for these coastal nesting raptors,” which, he’s noted previously, “are good indicators of healthy estuarine and marine environments since they feed almost exclusively on fish,” Wurst concluded. “They are high trophic level predators that are vulnerable to the effects of biomagnification of pollutants in the environment. … Since ospreys eat many of the same fish we do, their health has implications for people and fish-eating wildlife.”

As he wrote in a recent CWF blog post, “Their large stick nests depict our rivers and estuaries while they indicate that we’re doing a good job of protecting our local environment along the coast.”

For the annual N.J. Osprey Project, nest surveys are conducted by staff and trained volunteers during the peak of the nestling period, from late June to early July.

“Banding migratory birds with a lightweight aluminum leg band allows us the ability to track young after they leave the nest,” Wurst explained. “In 2018, a total of 387 young were banded.

“On Barnegat Bay we continued to deploy auxiliary red bands on young produced on nests within the watershed. Sixty-six red bands were used in 2018, which brings our total deployed to 327. This banding and band re-sighting project, Project RedBand, began in 2014 to help learn more about ospreys who fledge from nests on Barnegat Bay by collecting data on their life history while they are alive, since most traditional band sightings (or recoveries) occur when a bird is injured or found dead.”

Notable band recoveries from 2018 can be found in the full report, available at conservewildlifenj.org.  —J.K.-H.

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