Move over eagles, the Okoboji osprey are back

osprey 4-7-14

The Okoboji osprey landed in their nest outside the Dickinson County Nature Center on Monday, April 7.

The osprey usually return in April, although this year was slightly earlier than usual. This will be the fourth nesting for the banded male and wild female, who raised three successful babies last year.

The babies that hatched in 2013 will stay in South America this season and should return in 2015. Osprey usually return to nest within 100 miles of where they learned to fly, although the banded male in the nature center nest is about 170 miles from where he fledged.

Come to the Dickinson County Nature Center in Okoboji to view the nest through binoculars, or the pair can also be viewed via live web cam, although it is important to keep in mind that the batteries for the camera are solar powered. This means that on gloomy spring days, the camera might not always show a live feed. Please be patient, as the problem will be rectified as quickly as possible when this happens.

The osprey are building their nest and can be viewed on the web cam several times each day. They will lay eggs in three-four weeks, and the female will sit on the nest constantly after that to incubate and protect the eggs.

Osprey grow to about 4.5 pounds, with a 71-inch wingspan. They are not in the same family as hawks, eagles or falcons but are their own family. Osprey only eat live fish, and the nature center pair will dive into West Lake Okoboji and Center Lake to find prey that can be almost as large as the birds are.

“I think osprey are exciting because they’re very physical birds,” said naturalist Charles Vigdal. “They’re very acrobatic. They are the Michael Jordan of birds, because they can do things that normal birds can’t do.”

No osprey had existed in Iowa since the arrival of European settlers until the early 2000s, so it is exciting to have the birds back in the area.

“They’re a big indicator of clean water,” Vigdal said. “If you have clean water, you’ll have osprey.”

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