Spring’s almost here: Ospreys begin returning to the Jersey Shore

An osprey prepares to land on a natural nest in the Barnegat Bay. (Image courtesy of the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey)

An osprey prepares to land on a natural nest in the Barnegat Bay. (Image courtesy of the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey)

Welcome home!

It’s that time of the year again when ospreys — the raptors that have staged a miraculous comeback in New Jersey since the early 1970s — migrate north from their wintering grounds in Central America, northern South America, and the Caribbean.

In recent days, ospreys, also known as fish hawks, were spotted in Ocean County and as far north as the Meadowlands.

Ospreys are typically seen hunting for fish by hovering over tidal waterways, diving downward with talons extended when they spot prey.

The raptors had their most successful year in 2018, a report released by the Conserve Wildlife Foundation (CWF) of New Jersey found.

Highlights from the 2018 osprey report, which provides the number of nesting pairs, active nests, and nest productivity for the hawks throughout New Jersey, include 589 active osprey nests surveyed.

Researchers determined that the nests produced 932 young ospreys (up from 892 in 2017), the most ever recorded in the project’s history.

“Only decades ago, ospreys had drastically declined across New Jersey and the nation, which makes their continuing recovery all the more remarkable,” said CWF Executive Director David Wheeler. “The ospreys’ expansion speaks both to the improving water quality of our estuaries and rivers and the dedication and leadership of our state and CWF biologists and volunteers.”

“Today, no visit to a coastal waterfront would be the same without the magnificent sighting of an osprey soaring above or crashing down to the water’s surface for a fish,” he said.

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