Volume 13, Issue 44 ~ November 3 - November 9, 2005

Letters to the Editor

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Where the Osprey Go

Dear Bay Weekly:

In 2000 I began collaborating with Mark Martell (then at the Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota), who had put over 100 satellite transmitters on ospreys all over the U.S. and followed their annual migrations from the breeding grounds to wintering areas in Mexico and Central and South America.

His research revealed that East Coast osprey all go down the coast, some fairly far inland, some along the coast proper, the tip of Florida, over to Cuba, and then on to Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic). Some winter in the Caribbean, but the majority make the 500-plus-mile trip across the Caribbean to Venezuela. From there, they scatter across much of the South American continent.

Birds that we have followed for several migrations tend to be as faithful to their wintering spot in South America as they are to their nesting area up north.

Males and females take separate vacations. The young travel on their own when they head south. They do not follow their parents but work on pure instinct.

Following birds tagged in Martha’s Vineyard and Rhode Island, here’s the latest as of October 28 on this year’s migration:

Homer, our Martha’s Vineyard youngster, made his first move on August 19. Now Homer is one cold osprey, up in the mountains of Virginia. He’s been seeing some freezing temperatures this week, and doesn’t want to move yet.

Bluebeard, an adult male from Martha’s Vineyard, hung late around his nest. But at the end of October, he made the Caribbean crossing and is pushing south.

Conanicus, the Rhode Island youngster, began exploring around his home on August 15. He thenflew to the Zapata swamp in Cuba and seems to have decided he doesn’t need to migrate any farther.

The bad news is that we haven’t had a signal from Jaws — who’s spent the year after his birth on the northernmost tip of South America — for four days. Silence either means his transmitter is malfunctioning or that he died. The sudden loss of signal is a bit strange. If he were dead, we’d expect to get signals for a while, so we can hope it’s just a problem with the transmitter.

Follow the migration with maps at www.bioweb.uncc.edu/bierregaard/


— R. O. Bierregaard, [email protected]

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