Jane Fink, executive director of Birds of Prey Northwest, is the Sandpoint osprey cam’s consulting biologist. Based in St. Maries and established in 1993, Birds of Prey Northwest promotes stewardship and conservation of raptors through educational programs with live birds of prey. The group provides medical treatment and rehabilitation to injured birds of prey with the ultimate goal of returning them to the wild. Jane will provide commentary on the daily blog for the osprey cam — or answer your own questions, in the blog below.

How is a nest cam like this helpful to conservation and education efforts?
The camera will help viewers understand all the complexities of nest building, breeding, and raising young ospreys. Mated for life, these raptors will need to cooperate to hatch their young, feed them as they grow, and protect them from the elements until they leave the nest. Fish eating birds of prey such as the osprey serve as bioindicators, barometers to the ecology around them. Conservation of their habitat helps humans too. This is an opportunity to view into the life of an osprey family that promises to delight!

Birds of Prey Northwest biologist Jane Fink with a rehabilitated osprey.

Does the same osprey pair come back to the same nest each year?
Ospreys have a high nest-site fidelity and return to previously existing nest structures each year. You are likely seeing the same pair if you observe two birds early in the season at this nest site. The perils are many as the ospreys return from their wintering grounds – sometimes as far south as South America! Should its mate not return, the male will likely attract another mate. Mortality factors for the osprey include electrocution, illegal shooting and vehicle collision.

Due to the new nesting platform, the osprey are coming back to just a few sticks, compared to the big nest they had last year. What kind of behavior should we watch for to start?
Initially after the pair return, you will likely see, the male particularly, bringing sticks to the nest and beginning to refurbish the nest. They will both be present often thereafter as mating and egg laying commence.

What are some of the unusual characteristics of ospreys?
Ospreys are unique birds of prey in that they are the only raptor to eat exclusively fish. They are found on five continents worldwide and four subspecies exist. In North Idaho we have one of the largest osprey breeding populations west of the Rockies, thanks to our shallow lakes and ample fishing opportunities.

How are ospreys especially adapted for hunting fish?
Ospreys are the consummate fishermen, hence their nickname “fish hawk” – though officially their Latin name is Pandion haliaetus. Several adaptations allow for their expert fishing skills, including a reversible outer toe for grabbing fish, special pads on the feet for holding on to slippery fish, dislocatable shoulder joints, underwater vision, a fleshy nostril that closes and the ability to dive into the water at high speeds after fish- feet first. Their special feathers are good at shedding water quickly.

How can you distinguish between the males and females?
As with all birds of prey, the females are often larger than the males – some females have wingspans approaching five feet, and weigh up to four pounds; males weigh in at two pounds. They have a characteristic black stripe through the eye and have charcoal and white feathers. In youth the eye is orange, in adulthood it becomes yellow. Ospreys mature after two years of age. Ospreys may nest atop manmade structures and place their large stick nests near human activities. These raptors have a high nest fidelity and return after long southerly migrations to the very nest from the previous year.  Ospreys mate for life and are devoted parents. Young are full grown at six weeks and leave the nest at about eight to ten weeks of age taking their first flights. Like all raptors, osprey have a high mortality rate in the first year of life. Ospreys are migratory and travel long distances south – as far as Central and South America, where they over winter until spring.

Are there healthy populations of osprey?
Historically the osprey was endangered due to use of DDT, a pesticide applied across North America that ended up in the food chain. Osprey, bald eagles and peregrine falcons were the most affected species of raptors, and by the early 1970s DDT was banned as the populations of these species began to plummet to perilously low numbers.  Thanks to protective laws, banning the use of DDT and reintroduction efforts the osprey populations have now recovered and the osprey has been removed from the Endangered Species List!

Learn more about ospreys, and many other species of raptors at BirdsOfPreyNorthwest.org»