Osprey nest in southern Minnesota one highlight of nongame program success

Published 8:40 am Friday, January 30, 2009

After 150 years or more, ospreys may successfully nest south of the Twin Cities.

Last spring, an osprey pair attempted to nest in Le Sueur County on a power pole adjacent to fish rearing ponds at the Department of Natural Resources fisheries facility at Waterville. This is the first documented case of an active osprey nest in southern Minnesota in modern times, although there have been several unsubstantiated reports.

“Even though this pair was not able to hatch any chicks, we’re keeping our fingers crossed that they’ll return next spring and bring off a hatch,” said Lisa Gelvin-Innvaer, Southern Region DNR Nongame Wildlife specialist at New Ulm. “We think there is a reasonable chance that could happen, which would be great news.”

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Ospreys are making a comeback in the state. A 2004 DNR flight survey found 577 Minnesota osprey territories, with an estimated population of 1,200 birds. While the DNR has not done an osprey flight survey since then, it is estimated that the statewide population may be more than 2,000 birds by the end of the 2009 season.

For a bird that had nearly disappeared as a breeding species in Minnesota by the mid-20th century, the osprey has been an impressive comeback story. Loss of habitat, shooting and pesticides were major factors attributing to the population nosedive.

The osprey recovery, Gelvin-Innvaer said, is due in part to lend a helping hand by many people.