Illinois Department of Natural Resources biologist Patrick McDonald sprays a mist of water on the wings of a young osprey before release. The bird is being held by University of Illinois Springfield graduate student April Simnor.
SPRINGFIELD – Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) biologists are wrapping up the second summer of a long-term project to re-establish the osprey as a nesting species in the state.
The osprey is listed as an Illinois state-endangered species, meaning it is at risk of disappearing as a breeding species. While the osprey often is seen during spring and fall migration, few remain in Illinois to nest. Birds from Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Virginia are brought to Illinois to be released at Anderson Lake in Fulton County and Lake Shelbyville in Moultrie County.
“The young birds are loyal to the place where they grow up and often return to nest,” IDNR Biologist Patrick McDonald said. “Similar programs carried out in other states have been successful in boosting the number of nesting birds, and we hope to have the same result here in Illinois.”
This was the second year of an eight-year project. Birds removed from nests near JBLE-Langley, where their local population is abundant and poses a threat to military aircraft in flight, are driven to Illinois. The birds are provided free of charge as part of an ongoing effort to promote wildlife conservation efforts while mitigating bird aircraft strike hazards at JBLE-Langley. Young birds receive a physical check-up at the Illinois Raptor Center in Decatur before they are placed in nest boxes for up to two weeks. While in the boxes, birds have a view of their surroundings. They are fed and monitored by students and field technicians from the University of Illinois Springfield under the direction of Dr. Tih-Fen Ting of the Environmental Studies Department.
The osprey is a fish-eating hawk that migrates south and winters from the southern United States to South America. Birds raised in Illinois will begin their fall migration soon. Two of the birds released this summer are equipped with satellite transmitters to allow their movements to be tracked.
“We are justifiably proud of our endangered species recovery efforts, and also are grateful to the many partners that help us accomplish this important work,” IDNR Director Marc Miller said. “Our partners provide additional expertise and help us make the best use of funds entrusted to us to help bring back endangered species.”