Ospreys are Nesting!

Photo Credit: Janet Pellegrini.

Exciting news for our ongoing efforts to improve the reproductive success of osprey in the Chicago-Calumet River watershed. At the end of April, a pair of osprey were spotted building a nest and mating on a nesting platform on an 80’ pole Friends installed at the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glenview in 2016. 

Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) are a conservation success nationally yet are still endangered in Illinois. Osprey numbers are increasing decades after the now-banned insecticide DDT put them on the endangered species list, but their habitat is not.

Osprey are migratory and travel long distances south—as far as Central and South America, where they overwinter until spring. Fish-eating birds of prey such as the osprey serve as barometers to the ecology around them.

Since 2014, Friends has been working with scientists from the Forest Preserves of Cook County to increase the number of nesting sites available to osprey along the river system north and south. Friends pioneered a redesign of the traditional nesting platform which sits on top of an 80-foot pole to make them inviting to ospreys as nesting sites. The new design offsets the nest in order to allow researchers to more easily access the nest. Friends installed our first nesting platform in 2015 at the Skokie Lagoons, just south of the Botanic Garden, which has seen activity by bald eagles. Another nesting platform at the Beaubien Woods Boat Launch on Chicago’s South Side has had a nesting pair since 2020. Our platform at Erickson Woods in Winnetka has seen nesting activity but Friends’ wildlife monitors have not spotted chicks. The fifth nesting platform is located at Whistler Woods in Riverdale.

Our five platforms provide great access to the healthy and growing fish populations in the river system, and allow a 360° view which osprey prefer to protect their young chicks from predators like the bald eagle. A sixth pole installation is planned once the right site and funds are determined.

Learn more about osprey by listening to our interview with Chris Anchor, senior wildlife biologist at the Cook County Forest Preserve District, on our Inside, Out & About podcast.