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Ospreys Make a Comeback With Record Numbers Nesting in Jamaica Bay

By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska | July 24, 2015 7:29am | Updated on July 24, 2015 7:38pm
 There are 21 active osprey nests around the bay. 
Record Number of Ospreys Nesting in Jamaica Bay this Year
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QUEENS — Ospreys, once gone from Jamaica Bay, are now back in record numbers

There are currently 21 active nests around the bay and 45 chicks have hatched this year, according to Don Riepe, who patrols the area as Jamaica Bay Guardian for the American Littoral Society.

“That’s great news,” Riepe said, adding that the area's osprey population “is pretty much restored.”

Last year, he said, there were about 18 nests around the bay with 21 chicks.

In 1990, there were none.

The osprey's population around the entire state has been rebounding after a plummet in the 1960s when the bird's egg shells started to thin due to DDT and other pesticide use, according to Tod Winston, a spokesman for the New York City Audubon Society

Their numbers started to grow again after DDT was banned in 1972.

When ospreys — large brown fish-eating raptors with a mostly white breast — were spotted in the Coney Island area in 1990, Riepe set up the first nesting platform in Jamaica Bay, a wildlife refuge considered one of the best birdwatching locations in the city.

Soon after that, the first pair settled there, he said.

Riepe said that among another factors that contributed to the bird's rebirth is water quality improvement as well as the area's ample supply of menhaden, or bunker, the fish of choice for osprey.

“If they have really good numbers of menhaden that stimulates them to produce more eggs,” Riepe said.

Winston said that nesting ospreys can also be seen in several places around Staten Island, in Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx and in Alley Pond Park in Queens. 

"The birds are doing well in New York City and in New York State," Winston said. “They breed here and are commonly seen during migration."

The birds, also known as fish eagles, travel to the Caribbean and South America every year for the wintertime and return in spring to North America where they nest in the same spots year after year.