The University of Oregon campus is about to gain three baby ospreys, also sometimes called seahawks. The first two eggs’ due date is May 28, and bird-lovers or curious Ducks can watch a live-feed of the nest on top of the Knight Law School in hopes of seeing the eggs hatch.
Two ospreys have made their home in a four-foot by four-foot nest on a platform constructed 52 feet above the roof of the law school and 110 feet off the ground. While the camera to record the live stream was a more recent addition added in late February, the nest was relocated from a light pole at Hayward Field to the law roof in March 2014.
Jim Horstrup, law School building manager, said this is a much better place for the raptor species.
“Legend has it someone came over the radio and said, ‘Hey, there’s a trout in lane four,’ during a track meet,” said Horstrup.
Because of this, the osprey nest was removed from the light pole at Hayward Field in 2013, and in March of 2014, UO Athletics paid for the new nest that was assembled to match the height of light poles in the area. Horstrup said ospreys choose to nest in the tallest places they can find to protect themselves against predators. Their new location had to be tall enough so the birds wouldn’t return to Hayward the next year.
At the time, Horstrup said the budget for the relocation wasn’t large enough to include installing a camera. Donations paid for the $3,000 camera and $12,000 installation costs in honor of retired Law School dean and bird-lover Margaret Paris so that she, and others, could keep an eye on the family on the roof, according to Horstrup.
Two stories below the roof, the ospreys are broadcasted on a TV at the entrance of the law library. Horstrup said the employees of the library requested the feed after the nest was moved from Hayward field, which they could see from the library windows. A sign below the TV announced that the eggs were lain April 23 and 26 and the first two eggs’ due date is May 28.
According to Joe Stack, Wildlife Biologist for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, ospreys typically lay their eggs sometime from March to May and eggs take about 38 days to incubate. He said at around 52 days, the hatchlets will start to fly.
“People who might be watching this camera in middle July, early August — if you’re not seeing those birds around, it’s probably because they’re out test flying, getting their wings stronger, flying around and foraging,” said Stack.
Twigs decorate the roof below the 52-foot pole, pushed from the nest as the two resident ospreys tend to their three eggs. Horstrup said they have even found fish, eel and snake carcases that have been pushed from the nest. One time he found a 20-inch salmon skeleton on the roof.
Ospreys occasionally build nests at Autzen Stadium as well. Horstrup said they did at the time of the spring game this year, causing crews to block off a section of the stands below the nest to protect football fans from falling twigs and debris.
Stack said traffic is often not a problem to these birds, especially due to the height at which they nest. Horstrup echoed this, saying crews have pressure washed the poop and debris from the roof below the nest and the ospreys didn’t seem to care. Stack said the ospreys in Florida where he used to work were particularly fearless.
“They were all over the place,” said Stack. “They would nest on people’s boat docks, buoys — anything they could put a nest on, they would do it.”
While the osprey population declined in the early to mid-1970s, Stack said that since then, the Oregon population has bounced back. He said that in 1976 there were 13 osprey pairs between Eugene and Portland, but in 2001, the last year he said they have data from, there were 234 pairs of ospreys in Eugene.
“Now you see multiple pairs, just in downtown Eugene,” said Stack. “I would say there’s a benefit to having them here. Maybe people who fish might not agree because they’re competing with fishers.”
Those who miss the action on camera this year need not worry. According to Stack, they should be back next year.