By Phil Cooper, Idaho Department of Fish and Game
The osprey is a fish-eating hawk common to northern Idaho. At least 100 pairs nest annually in the Coeur d'Alene Lake region, including the lower reaches of the St. Joe and Coeur d'Alene rivers.
Adult osprey along with the young-of-the-year birds begin their annual migration in mid-September, traveling all the way to Baja California, Central America and many all the way to South America. The adults return in late winter-early spring to the area where they originally hatched.
The University of Idaho and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game have been studying and banding ospreys at Coeur d'Alene Lake for over 25 years. The work is done to determine survival and mortality rates and to further define the migration patterns and wintering areas of the population.
To conduct this research, young-of-the-year, pre-flight osprey are briefly taken from nests just before fledging. A band with a unique number is gently applied to one leg and the 6- to 7-week-old birds are safely placed back in the nests.
You may be wondering what the adult osprey think of the process. The adults take flight when the research boat approaches. They make their displeasure known with loud, screeching calls intended to scare the biologists away. Yet, these brave biologists have over 30 years of experience banding osprey, and they can understand "osprey language." Knowing the osprey are only using scare tactics, they go about their work and get out in no time flat.
The banding process goes very quickly. After the leg bands are applied and the biologists move away, the adults immediately return to the nests to find their young safe and secureÉbut sporting new leg bands.
None of us know whether having a leg band is a status symbol or an embarrassment in the osprey world, but the bands allow for the gathering of some remarkable information to help biologists learn about the species and to protect osprey populations.
Would you like to learn more about this bird, common to our area in the summer? How about coming along and watching ospreys being banded?
An Osprey Boat Cruise has been scheduled for 9 to 11 a.m, Saturday, July 13, boarding begins at 8:30 a.m.
The cruise will be leaving from the city docks at Independence Point. This is a change from previous osprey cruises due to construction near the Coeur d'Alene Resort. Parking is available about two blocks away, past Memorial Field and in the pay lot at the North Idaho Museum. The cost of the trip is $15 for adults, $30 maximum per family.
Space is limited and reservations are required. Reservations can be made by calling the Coeur d'Alene Chamber of Commerce at 415-0110. Reservations may also be made on-line at the CDA Chamber website.
Wildlife Biologists will be in a small boat that will travel alongside a Lake Coeur d'Alene Charter Cruise boat. Well known wildlife biologist and renowned osprey researcher Wayne Melquist will take young-of-the-year birds from osprey nests and band them, while the passengers on the cruise boat watch and take photos.
Speakers on the cruise boat will include wildlife biologists and avian experts Beth Paragamian and Chris Buchler, representing Idaho Fish and Game and the Coeur d'Alene Chapter of the Audubon Society. They will be on board the cruise boat to provide fascinating biological information on ospreys and other wildlife species.
Invited guest speakers also include the Coeur d'Alene Tribe, the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality's CdA Lake Management Team, and a Cougar Bay Preservation group.
The annual event is sponsored by the Natural Resources Committee of the Coeur d'Alene Chamber of Commerce. Cooperators include The Nature Conservancy, the Idaho Fish and Game Department, the Idaho Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the University of Idaho, the Audubon Society and the Coeur d'Alene Resort.