The Osprey Pandion haliaetus, is a large bird of prey found by bodies of fresh water all over the world. They are raptors and their diet consists mostly of fish. They can reach 24 inches inches in length and have a wingspan that can reach up to 71 inches! Other names they go by are the Sea Hawk, Fish Hawk, or Fish Eagle. The Osprey almost became non-existent in many areas of the United States due to use of the DDT pesticide after World War II. This pesticide interfered with calcium production during reproduction, resulting in thin-shelled eggs which were easily broken or infertile eggs. DDT was banned in 1972 and since then populations of Osprey have come back to many bodies of water.
Project Osprey is a study going on at the University of Montana. It is investigating inorganic contaminants such as mercury in these birds and using the results to help determine environmental health in surrounding areas. These large raptors are useful in determining environmental conditions in local lakes and rivers because they are at the top of the food chain and eat primarily fish obtained from these bodies of water. Therefore what is contained in these birds is also contained in the fish they eat and in the environment the fish live in. The project has been ongoing for for six breeding seasons now and a study detailing the mercury and other contaminants found in Osprey in the Clark Fork River Basin has been published.
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Featured Image Credit: Ian Tuck, Unsplash