Science

New Jersey's Ospreys Back from Near Extinction

By | Dec 29, 2014 08:36 AM EST
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Osprey

An osprey preparing to dive.(Photo : NASA/National Geographic)

The New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife's Endangered and Nongame Species Program and the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey announced they've found 567 pairs of ospreys in the coastal regions of New Jersey and 686 new chicks.

Based on ground surveys conducted this June and July, the two organizations estimated the population of New Jersey's osprey is now about 567 pairs.

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In 1973, there were only 53 pairs of ospreys in the state. In 1974, the osprey was added to the list of protected species. Pesticides ruined the natural thickness of the bird's eggshells causing it to break when an adult bird sat on it.

"The comeback of these magnificent birds continues to inspire us, especially in combination with the parallel recoveries of bald eagles and peregrine falcons," said David Wheeler, executive director of the Conserve Wildlife Foundation.

The osprey, also known as fish eagle, is a large raptor found near bodies of water. They prey on fish and nest along the coast and the Delaware Bayshore. It's one of the first animals added to New Jersey's Endangered Species list.

DDT-based pesticides affected the productivity of the birds and thinned eggshells, causing the eggs to easily break because they couldn't support the weight of the incubating bird.

Reduced fish populations also contributed to the decline in the osprey's population and the bird's productivity is known to rely on the health of coastal fisheries.

The osprey's diet consists mainly of fish. This makes the bird an important indicator of the health of the environment.

Kathleen Clark, a biologist from the Division of Fish and Wildlife, suggests there is an abundance of fish and a healthy aquatic system.

Conservation efforts and the ban on the use of DDT are responsible for the increase in the birds' numbers. Clark said the osprey population will likely keep growing and the birds will likely be upgraded from their "threatened" status.

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