Some two-dozen rare young birds are being given new homes at five protected sites in Iowa this week. The once-plentiful osprey is being reintroduced after years of decline.
Chuck Ungs, a naturalist at Linn County’s Wickiup Hill Nature Center, says the new ospreys are coming from several locations in Minnesota, Wisconsin and elsewhere in Iowa. Ungs says the first place the birds take flight from is imprinted in their minds as home. He says the males will return to within 25 miles of that location to establish their own nests while the females may stray as far as 250 miles to nest.
In the past decade, 129 ospreys have been released at seven sites in Iowa. This year, there have been six nesting attempts and four nests have produced eight young. These new birds are all around 42 days old and Ungs says they’re not quite ready to fly, but will be soon. Ungs says they won’t have their flight feathers yet but will have their body contour feathers and within two weeks to a month, they’ll be learning to fly within the tower and then the gates will be opened, setting them free. A few stragglers may take a bit longer to develop before they can take off on their own.
“Osprey are a good tool to show us that we have clean water in the state,” he says. “Here in Iowa, our waters are becoming clearer and cleaner every year compared to what they had been in the ’70s before people got concerned about pollution so they’re a good indicator of the health of the systems around us. That’s one reason we’re excited to have them around.”
Twenty-five ospreys are being placed this week at five locations including Wickiup Hill near Cedar Rapids, Don Williams Lake in Boone County, Clear Lake in Cerro Gordo County, Elk Rock State Park in Marion County, and White Rock Conservancy in Guthrie County. An Osprey-Cam is online at www.iowadnr.gov/parks/state_park_list/elk_rock.html.
Related web sites:
DNR osprey cam