Ospreys make nest overlooking major Fredericton intersection

Click to play video: 'Pair of ospreys make new home in Fredericton'
Pair of ospreys make new home in Fredericton
WATCH: If you’re coming off the Princess Margaret Bridge in Fredericton, there’s a good chance you’ll spot something in the skyline – a pair of ospreys. The birds have set up their nest on a lamppost off a very busy intersection in the city. One ornithologist says they choose locations based on the proximity to food… and with fish their top choice, anything overlooking the St. John River is very appealing. Nathalie Sturgeon has more – Jul 29, 2022

As vehicles make their way off the Princess Margaret Bridge in Fredericton, they might notice something in the skyline.

A pair of ospreys have made a lamppost just off the bridge and near Forest Hill Road their home, making a nest for their unhatched babies.

Ospreys are large raptors with dark-brown upperparts and white underparts, a small white-capped head with a dark crown, a distinct eyestripe and a faint speckled band across their breast.

Alain Clavette, a birding expert, says ospreys often use human-made structures to build their nests, especially ones overlooking water.

“One thing they require when they establish a nest is they need to be able to peruse their territory of fishing from the nest,” Clavette said in an interview by phone.

That makes the nest that sits squarely overlooking the St. John River one of the more ideal places. Ospreys only eat fish.

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But the question remains about whether a heavily trafficked intersection is the best place for this wildlife. Clavette said the spot is likely just fine.

“One thing that we have to realize, when we say, ‘Oh, are they going to be all right?,’ the mother chose to establish the nest there. She saw something there that was valuable, probably the vantage point that she likes, and therefore we got to trust her instincts,” he said.

The nest is also likely home to a few eggs, which will hatch after a 45-day incubation period. The chicks will then spend 35 days preparing for the first flight.

Clavette said the first flight of those chicks might be the only time the birds face any danger. During their takeoff, if they aren’t strong enough, they may end up on the road, but he said that is unlikely.

He said there is a bit of introspection that humans should do when they see nests set up like this, especially since humans continually take away natural spaces along rivers and coastal areas.

“When wildlife chooses sites like that it’s because they don’t find anything else better,” he said. “Something to think about here, maybe it’s because there is nothing left out there because of our activities.”

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Ospreys have made a strong comeback, too, having been on the endangered species list due to insecticides.

Scott Makepeace, a wildlife biologist with the Department of Natural Resources and Energy Development, said that in the 1950s and 1960s, DDT was commonly used as an insecticide.

“It was recognized, through research, that an organophosphate insecticide called DDT, is the one that everyone would know the name of, and it caused eggshell thinning in the ospreys,” he said in an interview Friday. “It wasn’t necessarily killing the adults or chicks but the adults would sit on their eggs normally and the eggs would end up getting crushed. The ospreys staged a big recovery.”

He said ospreys are very tolerant of humans and their behaviour, so living in a high-traffic area would not bother them. Makepeace said the birds aren’t in any danger where they are.

He said this isn’t a good place to view the birds, though, especially when driving.

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