Osprey Sighted On Nesting Platform In South Side’s Beaubien Woods

An osprey has been sighted on a nesting platform installed by the Friends of the Chicago River at Beaubien Woods Forest Preserves on the city’s South Side.

The May 5 sighting on the 80-foot-high platform reflects improved health of the Little Calumet River, part of the Chicago River system. Osprey eat fish caught in the nearby river in a spectacular hunt that features the birds diving into the water at speeds of nearly 80 miles per hour and snagging prey with their talons.

The Beaubien site is one of five osprey nesting platforms installed by the Friends of the Chicago River, working with the Forest Preserves of Cook County. The first was installed in 2015 at the Skokie Lagoons after years of planning.

"Five years ago we set out to create places for osprey to nest along the Chicago River system where there is abundant space and abundant fish. Today, we were rewarded with the sight of an osprey on one of our nesting platforms, located at Beaubien Woods on Chicago's South Side. Fingers crossed for nesting. Our own baby osprey would be pretty great. Oh happy day!" Friends Executive Director Margaret Frisbie wrote on Facebook.

Easy to identify, osprey are large raptors typically weighing between three and four pounds with a five- to six-foot wingspan. They are a deep, glossy brown on their upper parts and predominantly white on the head and under parts. Their heads have a distinctive black eye stripe and their wings feature four long, finger-like feathers, and a shorter fifth feather.

Osprey require open, usually elevated nest sites near a body of water where there is an adequate food supply and which are free from predatory mammals such as raccoons.

Osprey populations plummeted across the country in the 1950s and 1960s due to the use of toxic pesticides. Decades after many countries banned chemicals like DDT, many osprey populations have recovered significantly. In the Chicago region, however, the osprey’s success is limited by a lack of available habitat.

Listed as an Illinois state-endangered species, ospreys winter in Florida, Mexico and South America and return to northern Illinois in April. Females lay three or four eggs and guard them while the males fetch food. About two months after the osprey hatch, the young ones take their maiden flights from way up top.

The nesting pole weighs approximately 5,200 lbs. and is 80’ tall with 10’ below grade. The nest is six sided and is 40” across. The osprey young are protected from ground predators by a stainless steel predator guard which starts 8’ off the ground. The pole and nest are expected to last more than 30 years.