Chris Martin, NH Audubon (603) 224-9909
John Kanter, NHFG Nongame Program (603) 271-3017
Jane Vachon, NHFG Public Affairs (603) 271-3211
December 8, 2008
Ospreys Soar Off New Hampshire's Threatened Wildlife List
CONCORD, N.H. -- The 2008 osprey breeding season in New Hampshire turned out to be another record breaker, and state wildlife officials couldn't be more pleased by the results. An impressive total of 87 young ospreys were raised at nests across the state in 2008, a 22% increase over the 71 young produced in 2007, which itself had been a record high. The number of successful nests was up 14%, from 35 in 2007 to a record 40 in 2008.
An estimated 68 territorial pairs of ospreys were present in the Granite State during the 2008 breeding season, according to Chris Martin, a raptor specialist for New Hampshire Audubon who coordinates osprey restoration efforts across the state. "This was the fourth year in a row that New Hampshire supported 50 or more osprey pairs, and the momentum behind their recovery has been increasing," said Martin. The state's osprey population doubled from 17 to 34 territorial pairs in 14 years from 1987 to 2001, and doubled yet again, from 34 to 68 pairs, in just seven years since 2001.
Ospreys, sometimes called fish hawks, are well known for their habit of hovering high over water, scanning for fish, and then plummeting feet-first to snag their prey. Pairs often build their nests atop dead standing trees in beaver ponds, but they are highly adaptable, and occasionally use utility poles, communications towers, construction cranes, or duck blinds instead.
During the 1980s, New Hampshire had only 10 to 20 breeding osprey pairs, all of which were located near the Androscoggin River in Coos County. But after nearly 30 years of careful monitoring and management by N.H. Fish and Game and N.H. Audubon staff and volunteers, and with assistance from other conservation partners such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Public Service of N.H., ospreys now nest from Pittsburg to Portsmouth to Jaffrey and in 38 additional towns in between.
The Merrimack River watershed, which had no osprey pairs at all in 1996, achieved top honors in 2008 for supporting the most active nests (20), while the Great Bay/Coastal region produced the most young (30) in 2008. For just the second time on record, of 669 documented osprey breeding attempts in New Hampshire since 1980, a nest in the state produced four young in 2008 - indeed a rare event!
Rapid growth in the state's breeding population has been aided by careful placement of nesting platforms, by slight modifications of some utility poles, by installing metal predator guards to reduce predation, and by the involvement of a small army of volunteer observers who monitor nests and advocate for better habitat protection.
The scope and speed of the osprey population rebound over the past decade has permitted the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department to remove ospreys from the state's List of Threatened and Endangered Wildlife, an action which officially took place on September 20, 2008, when Fish and Game readopted, with amendments, the endangered and threatened species lists, something it is required to do at least every eight years.
"The successful recovery of ospreys in New Hampshire is proof that with time, funding and dedicated people, we can bring back wildlife species from the brink," said John Kanter, coordinator of the Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Program for N.H. Fish and Game.
Management of the state's recovering osprey population is carried out by N.H. Audubon, working under contract with the N.H. Fish and Game's Nongame Wildlife Program. N.H. Audubon recruits, trains and deploys volunteer observers to monitor osprey distribution and productivity, activities that are currently supported by private donations.
New Hampshire Audubon, a non-profit membership organization, is dedicated to the conservation of wildlife and habitat throughout the state. For more information about New Hampshire Audubon visit www.nhaudubon.org.
The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department is the guardian of the state's fish, wildlife and marine resources and their habitats. Its Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Program is the steward for species not hunted, fished or trapped. Through wildlife monitoring and management, plus outreach and education, the Nongame Program works to protect over 400 species of mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians, as well as thousands of insects and other invertebrates. The program works in cooperation with other New Hampshire wildlife organizations to develop and implement effective conservation strategies to protect and enhance this diverse group of wildlife. Visit www.wildlife.state.nh.us/Wildlife/nongame_and_endangered_wildlife.htm.