Osprey once nested and lived in Iowa, but no nests were recorded since the state was settled by Europeans. That is, not until a reintroduction of osprey was begun by the Macbride Raptor Center and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources in 1997.
Osprey return to where they were raised to build a nest and raise their young. For the reintroduction project, the Iowa DNR helps to obtain young osprey and work with local conservation agencies and volunteers to place the young birds in hack towers, feed and monitor them, in hope they will expand their range into Iowa.
Iowa reintroduction sites since 1997 include Coralville Reservoir, Saylorville Reservoir, Don Williams Lake in Boone County, Hartman Reserve Nature Center in Black Hawk County, Lake Red Rock, Clear Lake, Spirit Lake, near Coon Rapids, Dubuque County, Warren County, and Linn County. (PDF map of reintroduction sites and known osprey nests.)
2012 Osprey at Swan Lake State Park
SOAR is helping with the efforts of Carroll County Conservation staff to hack young osprey from a new tower constructed on Swan Lake.
Four young osprey were brought back from northern Minnesota and as in past years were retrieved from the nest by ALLETE / Minnesota Power Lineman. One of the young died while at SOAR and was later determined by necropsy performed by Dr. Roos that the osprey died from a fungal infection -- aspergillosis completly consumed one lung.
Three young osprey were placed in the hack tower on July 17. These birds have purple state identification bands: AV, AW, and AX. The gate on the tower was opened on August 6 and by the 10th all birds had left the tower. By September 10, the young were not coming to the tower to feed anymore. Follow Wyoming osprey migration routes. Our "babies" might take a similar path.
Photos in the slideshow below from Missy, Natalie, Savanna, Kay, Victor, and Megan (and likely others).
Whiterock Conservancy Osprey Project
In 2006 SOAR partnered with Whiterock Conservancy to establish nesting osprey along the Middle Raccoon River. Where a young bird learns to fly, tends to be where it chooses to nest as an adult. Young osprey were borrowed from nests in Wisconsin and Minnesota and brought to Iowa. Here they were “hacked out,” an ancient falconry technique of slowly releasing young birds back to the wild from a secure tower structure. They are provided with food and water as they learn how to fly and become proficient hunters.
Osprey are neotropical migrants, spending our winter in South America. They are also slow to mature and will not start nesting until they are three or four years old. Nesting structures have been installed at Whiterock ready for any of our returning released birds or perhaps a migrating osprey will see the structures and chose to stay and nest.
Birds Released at Whiterock
All Iowa-released ospreys have a USFWS silver identification band on one leg and a purple identification band with a unique alpha-numeric ID on the other leg.
2011 - Lineman from Allete / Minnesota Power retrieved young osprey from nests on 11 July for release in the Spirit Lake area and at Whiterock Conservancy. 2011 band identification 'numbers' are: YK, YN, YT, YU, and YX. Click here for 2011 updates!
2010 – Pat Schlarbaum with Iowa DNR indicates that Whiterock Conservancy hack tower will have young osprey to release this year. The young osprey will be at SOAR the week of 12 July and Kay placed four young osprey from northern Minnesota in the hack tower on Friday 16 July (2010 band numbers are: UR, UC, UH, and UU.). These birds are older than birds released in past years and UR, UC, and UH didn't hang around the tower long at all. UU stayed the longest. Click here for updates from 2010.
2009 – 4 of the 5 birds hacked at Whiterock (bands RN, TJ, PX, RP), bird with band RR was released at Red Rock’s tower.
2008 – Nestlings from a wild osprey nest at Saylorville Reservoir were rescued via boat by Army Corps and Polk CCB staff, just as flood waters were rising over the nest, and taken to SOAR, raised, and hacked along with reintroduction birds. Bands PC and NX were from Saylorville. Birds with bands NT, NE, and NN were from Minnesota.
2007 – ID tags EC, EN, EP, HA, KE, and ER. EC was found to be not healthy, was removed from the hack tower, and taken back to SOAR for evaluation. EC later died. It was determined that EC died from West Nile Virus. This is the reason we now vaccinate all incoming osprey with at least one dose of the equine WNV vaccine. An adult osprey patient that overwintered at SOAR was also released at the hack tower.
2006 – The original five birds have bands Y9, Y6, AC, AH, and AT and were placed in the hack tower mid-July. On August 25 an additional Minnesota osprey put in hack tower, XF (this is a black band as XF had originally been reintroduced in MN, was injured at his MN release site, recuperated at The Raptor Center and then needed released again). 2D was released at tower in early September, also received from The Raptor Center.
Thanks to all the Whiterock Conservancy Osprey Project donors!
Recycling/Moving the Hack Tower from Saylorville Lake
Army National Guard
Polk County Conservation Board
Diversity Farms, Inc.
Coon Rapids-Bayard FFA
Coon Rapids Municipal Utilities
Guthrie Rural Electric Cooperative
Bayard Building Supply
Mike Dahl and Colton Pulver
Coon Rapids Rotary
Whiterock Conservancy Board of Directors
Land Improvement Contractors Association
Linda Jones Lehman and Marvin Lehman in memory of Frances Leona Jones and Wayne Morton Jones
Fledgling Relocation/Feeding/Observation/Public Relations
Coon Rapids-Bayard Elementary – 2007 Read-a-thon for web cam
Ben Wedeking – Eagle Scout Nesting Platform Project
Allia Janning and Colton Pulver – Great Places Interns
Aquatic Resources Management
Manning Boy Scouts
Iowa Department of Natural Resources – Fisheries and Wildlife Diversity
Terrie Hoefer and Silverleaf
Veterinary Associates of Manning
Dickinson County Small Animal Clinic
Advanced Laser Technologies