Ospreys are cool birds and expect to see more in Nebraska in the future. For those that don’t know, Ospreys are piscivorous (fish-eating) raptors that, like Peregrine Falcons and Bald Eagles, were negatively impacted by DDT decades ago. All three species have recovered since DDT and similar pesticides were banned. Ospreys are primarily spring and fall migrants in Nebraska. In 2008, however, Ospreys attempted to nest in Nebraska at Winter’s Creek Lake near Scottsbluff. The only other known Osprey nesting attempt in Nebraska goes back over a century when nesting was reported near the Washington-Douglas County line in the late 1800s. Since 2008, additional nesting attempts have occurred in western Nebraska along the North Platte River near Scottsbluff and near Lake McConaughy. All of the initial Osprey nests were constructed on utility structures, which is typical for the species but is also problematic for both the birds and the utilities. A pile of sticks on top of a power pole can cause the power to go out or can cause a nest to go up in smoke if lines connect. None of the recent nesting attempts have been successful, but expect success in the future as (presumed) young pioneering birds become more experienced.
As of now, there have been no known recent nesting attempts in eastern Nebraska. However, Ospreys are increasing slowly in states to the east and a few years ago South Dakota hacked (hand-reared young and then released the young to the wild over a period of time) Ospreys at Lewis and Clark Lake along the South Dakota-Nebraska border. One of these hacked birds was seen as an adult along the Platte River in Sarpy County during the summer 2010. Thus, Osprey nesting could and probably will occur in eastern Nebraska at some point in the future. The challenging part is predicting when in the future this will occur.
A couple years ago Dina Barta, an NGPC Conservation Officer, raised the idea of putting up Osprey nesting platforms at Pawnee and/or Branched Oak Lake. To make a long story short,…….thanks to Dina’s persistence and coordination, along with help from many other NGPC people, Osprey platforms were erected at both Pawnee and Branched Oak Lake SRAs earlier this spring. Again, it is challenging to anticipate when or even if Ospreys will use the platforms, but Ospreys have been observed at these sites during the nesting season. Having a “welcome mat” out for them is positive and provides a ready-to-use alternative to an electric utility structure. Plus, it would be pretty awesome to have nesting Ospreys at these sites. The materials for each platform were purchased with dollars from the Wildlife Conservation Fund, the same source that is funding the Peregrine Webcams.
If you happen to see the platforms and Ospreys are at or near them, please keep your distance as to not disturb the birds. Ospreys that are prospecting potential nest sites will be easily convinced to leave an area if they feel threatened or unsafe.
Thanks to Dina Barta for bringing this project together and for the use of her photos.
To read a NEBRASKALAND story online about Ospreys nesting at Winter’s Creek Lake, visit this link: