CONTACT: MARY GERAGHTY
100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0011; fax (319) 384-0024
Macbride Raptor Project set to release four young osprey into the
IOWA CITY, Iowa Four young osprey, which were brought to Iowa
and placed in a "hack tower" at the Macbride Nature Recreation
Area on July 17, will be released into free flight on Monday, August 10.
The birds have spent the last three weeks "strengthening their
wings, practicing flight, eating, and growing," said Jodeane Cancilla,
coordinator of the Macbride Raptor Project. She said the birds are now
half again as big as they were when they entered the box. They have become
stronger by practicing flying inside the box flapping their wings
until they rise to the top of the box. But after spending time in a confined
space, the birds may initially face some difficulty navigating the wide
world that awaits their release.
"In their first flight, they may have some trouble like crashing
into trees," Cancilla said. "It's sort of like a toddler learning
to walk bumping into things and falling down all the time."
But they'll get the hang of it, Cancilla said, once they have a sense of
space and distance and once they improve their "wing-eye" coordination.
The osprey will also begin hunting, which entails diving feet first
underwater to catch fish. While they are learning, Cancilla said they may
spend some time floating around in the water recovering from bad dives
or learning to identify prey. "Boaters and jet skiers should be mindful
of that and give them some extra room," she said.
The public will be able to identify the osprey by their distinctive
white underside, dark back, and raccoon-like mask around yellow eyes. The
osprey can weigh between 2.75-4.5 pounds with a wingspan of 5-6 feet, making
it close in size to a small eagle. Although the osprey is sometimes called
the fish-hawk or fish-eagle, it is neither a hawk nor an eagle, but a related
species with its own classification. The four birds in the Raptor Project
also have lavender bands around their right legs and blue or pink markings
on their wings. This will enable the project staff to monitor the birds
with binoculars and to identify them if they eventually return to nest
Raptor Project staff will monitor the birds until they leave the area
in mid-September to begin migration to Central and South America. The osprey
will live there for about 18 months before returning north to nest. The
goal of the project is to have the birds return to the Macbride Nature
Recreation Area to build their nests. The first osprey released through
the project in July 1997 could return to nest in the spring of 2000.
The Raptor Project is co-sponsored by the University of Iowa and Kirkwood
Community College. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers also participates in
this project and has established five nesting platforms along the Coralville
Reservoir and Lake Macbride shorelines.
If you have questions about the osprey or the Raptor Project, or if
you see one of the newly released osprey struggling or experiencing difficulty,
call Cancilla at (319) 398-5495.