Ospreys are large and instantly recognizable birds of prey. Their unique shape and markings help them stand out from their fellow raptors, as does their incredible tendency to perform aerial dives to snatch live fish out of the water to eat. Fittingly, nicknames for Ospreys include the “sea hawk,” “river hawk,” and “fish hawk.” What’s more, they are impressively skilled at fishing and may reach success rates as high as 70%. This is staggering considering how difficult these dive attacks on slippery fish can be.
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In the United States, Osprey are often seen constructing nests on top of man-made structures. Utility poles are a favorite site, a fact which often brings Ospreys into conflict with power companies as their nests can disrupt service or even start fires. Still, Osprey nests are often a treasured site and are watched closely by local birders and conservation groups.
In Ireland, though, one Osprey nest location is being kept a closely guarded secret. This is because it may be the only one in the entire country. Earlier this month, some of the first Osprey chicks were released in Ireland from a Norwegian Osprey population. These chicks are part of a five year program intended to help reintroduce the species to Ireland. Over the next five years, as many as 70 chicks are planned to be released. This effort comes after more than 200 years without a breeding population of Ospreys in Ireland. In that time, migratory Ospreys have visited the country, but no nest sites have ever been found.
That is, until 2021. That was the year that an Osprey pair was first sighted at a secret nest site somewhere in County Fermanagh. The pair are not believed to have successfully bred in 2021, but hopes were ignited when the same birds returned to the same spot in 2022. Ospreys are monogamous birds who form strong attachments both to each other and their preferred nest sites. If they are able, they will return to the same nest for decades. And, it seems, this pair intends to do just that. While they were not sighted with chicks in 2022, they returned to the secret nest site again this year, and this time they made history. For the first time in more than 200 years, wild Ospreys produced chicks in Ireland.
The pair has produced at least two chicks, and it is thought that there may be a third. County Fermanagh is rich with lakes and waterways, making it the ideal site for the reintroduction of Ospreys to Ireland. As the newly released Norwegian chicks disperse, there is hope for a future for Ospreys in Ireland. Perhaps next year this historical nest will not be the only one.
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