In mid July, as an annual collaborative effort between the Natural Resource Departments in Wisconsin and Iowa, seven osprey nestlings (6-7 weeks old) were removed from nests in northern WI to be reintroduced into Iowa. Since 1997, this reintroduction effort has worked to repopulate osprey whose population decline began in the 1950’s due to egg shell thinning caused by the use of the pesticide, DDT.
En route to their new home, the chicks made a “pit stop” at TRC for a quick exam and refueling (a fish dinner). Once at their final destination, they were placed in a slow release enclosure and will be fed a fish meal daily for approximately 2 weeks. Then the enclosure door will be opened and the youngsters will be free to come and go for a meal as needed. Over several weeks, they will depend less and less on the free fish handouts and more on their strength and hunting savvy to satiate their appetites. The ultimate goal is that some of the youngsters, who bind to their home territory, will return after migration and choose suitable habitat for breeding in Iowa. (The second photo is from the SOAR website, and an example of a slow release enclosure).
TRC clinicians examined the chicks to make sure they were healthy; no fractures, bruising, soft tissue injuries, eye injuries, or external parasites. The majority of the birds did harbor maggots in their ears, a typical condition of nestling hawks. So, the maggots were manually removed with forceps, the ears cleaned, and an anti-parasitic drug given just to make sure no other parasites were missed. The birds were then given an injection of fluids under the skin in their upper leg so they wouldn’t get dehydrated and were fed a fish meal to tide them over as their journey south continued.