Banding helps preserve Osprey
Judy Voigt Englund, right, wildlife specialist for the Three Rivers Parks District, bands a five-week-old chick as volunteer Michelle Cook holds on tightly. The banding was done at the Joseph E. Wargo Nature Center in Lino Lakes. It is part of the Anoka County Parks system. (Photo by Howard Lestrud)
We are very fortunate in Minnesota to have many nature centers existing to restore and keep our wildlife safe. An example of that occurred just the other day in Lino Lakes at the Joseph E. Wargo Nature Center when two Osprey chicks were banded to continue the restoration of his beautiful raptor.
I did not know too much about the Osprey until my wife, who works as a cashier at Super Target in Lino Lakes, told me that a customer had told her there was a large eagle’s nest near the Target building. After failing to spot the nest for several weeks, I finally was told by a neighbor that it was located on a light standard in the Super Target parking lot.
Hoping to get some photos of the birds on the nest, I finally connected and was able to photograph the male and female on the nest. I noticed no chicks but my neighbor said they had seen two. After photographing the Osprey, I still didn’t know what kind of raptor it was. A friend of mine from Forest Lake, Norman Anderson, quickly identified the bird when he saw my photos.
The Osprey (Pandion haliaetus), sometimes known as the sea hawk, fish eagle or fish hawk, is a diurnal, fish-eating bird of prey. It is a large raptor, reaching more than 60 cm (24 in) in length and 180 cm (71 in) across the wings. It is brown on the upper parts and predominantly greyish on the head and under parts, with a black eye patch and wings.
The Osprey tolerates a wide variety of habitats, nesting in any location near a body of water providing an adequate food supply. It is found on all continents except Antarctica although in South America it occurs only as a non-breeding migrant.
As its other common name suggests, the Osprey’s diet consists almost exclusively of fish. It possesses specialised physical characteristics and exhibits unique behavior to assist in hunting and catching prey.
Now, I would like to tell you more about the special banding of two Osprey chicks. I was invited as a member of the media to participate in the event last week.
It was a special day for Three River Parks District wildlife specialist Judy Voigt Englund and others on Tuesday (July 10) as they participated in the banding of two Osprey chicks at the Joseph E. Wargo Nature Center in Lino Lakes.
The two chicks nesting on a stand at the Wargo Nature Center represented the 879th and 880th Ospreys Englund has banded.
The banding of the Osprey in the Twin Cities area is being done for a 29th season. Banding is usually done the two weeks surrounding the 4th of July when the chicks are about five weeks old. Due to the Osprey reintroduction project promoted by the Three Rivers Parks District, the total population in the Twin Cities area has grown to more than 130 known nests.
By banding the chicks, naturalists including Englund can learn more about the Osprey and about their behavior. The bands can be tracked by spotting scopes.
A kayaking camper group of kids at the Wargo Center actually participated in the banding by holding some of the banding equipment for Englund and also by coming up with names for the two chicks.
The interpretive center is nestled on a beautiful peninsula overlooking George Watch Lake and is part of the 5,000 acre Rice Creek Chain of Lakes Regional Park Reserve.
The banding process began when Glenn Fuchs, natural resources technician for Anoka County parks, drove a bucket truck toward the nesting stand located on the northwest part of the nature center. He then raised himself toward the nest, trying to ignore the swooping dives by mom and dad as they expressed their displeasure with the human interference.
Englund said that the Osprey have become very accustomed to human presence on the roadway and on the trails. They still protect their young ones by squawking loudly hoping to chase the intruders away. As Fuchs removed the chicks from the nest for banding purposes, the male Osprey flew overhead with a part of a fish in his beak.
The chicks were placed into two special containers and then delivered to Englund and Three Rivers volunteer Michelle Cook.
The chicks were very calm as Cook held them tightly to her chest and Englund methodically applied a band to a leg. Englund encouraged the nature center kids to name the baby Ospreys, explaining that one bird carried a U4 tag and the other wears a U5 tag.
Voting amongst themselves, the nature center youngsters came up with King (U5) and Prince (U4). Following the banding, Fuchs placed the two chicks back in their nest. It was just a matter of seconds when the mother Osprey returned to the nest to be a parent.
The Osprey chicks are about three weeks from flying, Englund said. By banding the Osprey chicks, naturalists can monitor the population and see how it has grown in the Twin Cities area, Englund said.
She said in 2010, a banded bird was said to have reached the age of 22. She said just recently, a 19-year-old and a 10-year-old were spotted in the Twin Cities area. The mother to the birds at Wargo is five years old. The age of the male parent is not known since he is not banded.
When the Osprey were first introduced into the natural environment, platforms were built to hold nests. Now, Osprey have been known to make nests on barges and even on a light standard in a Super Target parking lot in Lino Lakes. On an average, a nest will hold 2.35 chicks.
Naturalists in the Twin Cities area have banded birds in 30 nests. The final one for the summer will be done next week in Bloomington at the Highland Park Reserve. More than 50 percent of adult Osprey in the Twin Cities have been banded.