Conserve Wildlife Blog

Record Breaking Return of New Jersey Osprey

April 23rd, 2018

Male osprey makes epic return to nest along Delaware Bay; turns seventeen this summer!

by Ben Wurst, Habitat Program Manager

Photographer Brian Kushner has photographed this bird over the past ten years. Just this past week he confirmed his return to his nest by ID’ing him by his band # 0788-45514. Click to view large on Flickr. photo by Brian Kushner.

The spring arrival of the North American osprey (Pandion haliaetus carolinensis) to their nesting grounds in New Jersey was delayed slightly due to prevalent north winds. As we saw many birds begin to arrive to their nest sites, which they return to year after year, we were particularly interested in the return of one very special osprey. This individual, if he survived the winter would be the oldest living osprey ever recorded in New Jersey to be observed on his nesting grounds. Ospreys face many threats and their life span averages around 8-10 years, but some can reach 20 years old.

We would not know how old this bird is without the USGS bird band that was affixed to his left leg before fledging in the summer of 2001. Photographer Brian Kushner, who has been watching this nest for the past 10 years, was able to photograph the band, which allowed us to track down his origins. He was banded on July 5, 2001 before he could fly. The nest was less than 5 miles away from where he currently nests along the Delaware Bayshore. Typically it is very difficult to ID birds by their USGS bird bands, and most recoveries or sightings of bands occurs during an injury or death, but Brian’s been able to use his photography equipment to positively ID this bird. Banding data shows that males return as adults to nest in very close proximity to their natal areas while females tend to wander further away to nest.

Ospreys are currently laying eggs and starting incubation, which occurs right after the first egg is laid. Nests with eggs and young are protected from disturbance during this time, and established nests cannot be removed without consulting with NJ Fish & Wildlife and USDA Wildlife Services. Please refer to our “Living with Ospreys in New Jersey” guidance document for more information.

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3 Responses to “Record Breaking Return of New Jersey Osprey”

  1. Lisa Kennedy says:

    He’s a fine looking fellow! Fantastic to be able to know more about him through his band. Where can we see more of Brian’s photos of him? Thanks for this great post, Ben.

  2. Barbara A Markey says:

    How very exciting and wonderful job Brian!!

  3. Ben says:

    Yes, Brian’s photos of 17 aka “Papa” are extraordinary!

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