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Rhode Island Continues To Make Gains In Osprey Population

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Bald eagles aren’t the only bird of prey thriving in Rhode Island. Ospreys are also making a comeback. The population of ospreys substantially declined...

Bald eagles aren’t the only bird of prey thriving in Rhode Island. Ospreys are also making a comeback.

The population of ospreys substantially declined from the use of the pesticide DDT after World War II. Rhode Island initiated an osprey monitoring program in 1977 to document the fish-eating raptor’s recovery and breeding success.

Eric Walsh, who coordinates that program for the Audubon Society of Rhode Island, said the latest osprey monitoring report shows last year a total of 186 young ospreys successfully fledged, or developed feather and wing muscles for flight, compared to seven in 1977.

“Their ability to recruit and produce fledglings in any given year is certainly tied to fish stocks,” said Walsh. “I don’t know if it’s a one to one relationship, but there is definitely a relationship between fish stocks and the reproductive health of the [osprey] population.”

Walsh said manmade breeding platforms along coastal areas built by volunteers have also helped ospreys thrive in the state. 

“They [the numbers] sort of ebb and flow here and there from seasonality differences, which could be fish stocks. Weather also has an impact on the reproduction rate in any given season,” said Walsh.

The program relies entirely on volunteers to monitor nearly 200 known nest sites around the state.

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Osprey nest near Quonset Point.
Rhode Island Continues To Make Gains In Osprey Population
Rhode Island Continues To Make Gains In Osprey Population