Banding Osprey for Science

On June 25 Friends' Executive Director Margaret Frisbie and Conservation Program Manager Maggie Jones joined the wildlife team from the Forest Preserves of Cook County (FPCC) to measure the health of and band osprey chicks at three forest preserves including Busse Woods, Baker's Lake Natural Area, and Penny Lane. Each nest had an adult pair and three nestlings ranging from three to six weeks. The nestlings were weighed and measured, and had blood drawn to look for environmental toxins and understand their general health.

The team used a bucket truck to access the chicks who were carefully brought down and assessed while the parents circled above. In two cases one of the adults waited nearby with a fresh fish ready to feed their young once they were safely returned to the nest. The FPCC team worked fast and efficiently to minimize any stress and Friends’ staff and FPCC interns were on hand to assist.

Friends has installed five osprey nesting platforms along the river system since 2015 and the most recent at the Beaubien Woods Boat Launch has its first nesting pair with chicks. As yet we do not know how many.

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

In 2015, Friends installed the first osprey nesting platform. The osprey nest is placed on top of an 80 foot pole, providing a high vantage point and the 360 degrees of visibility necessary to appeal to nesting birds that rely on the high platform to be free from predatory animals. Ospreys rely almost 100 percent on fish for their food. Click here to see a video of the osprey nesting platform being raised.