Thursday, August 09, 2007

Ospreys and Harpy Eagles

I've seen it many times, but it's still a dramatic sight: An osprey flying overhead carrying a flopping fish in its talons. In the late spring and summer, I can count on seeing ospreys most days along the Boise River Greenbelt. They're a common sight all along the river, and a pair are even nesting this year at the Boise Hawks Stadium. Across Idaho, wildlife viewers can see them at many Nature Conservancy preserves.

Just a few decades ago, things didn't look quite so rosy for ospreys. The widespread use of DDT had decimated populations, and they were on the endangered species list. The recovery came rapidly. In 1984, I saw my first osprey as a kid on a fishing trip to Canada--a special and rare sight. It's still a special sight, just a much more common one. And it's a testament to what conservationists can accomplish.

The harpy eagle may be one of the world's most dramatic birds, with a six-foot wingspan, a crested head and a propensity to pick off monkeys for dinner. Like the osprey in the 1950's, the harpy eagle has been in decline. Seeing one is a rare sight, something birders arrange complicated trips just for the chance to catch a glimpse. Recently, a harpy eagle was found in Belize after being absent for more than 50 years. Now The Nature Conservancy is leading an effort to restore harpy eagles to the Belize Mayan forests. The Conservancy is working with partners to restore habitat, and reintroducing eagles with the help of the Belize Zoo. Here's hoping that someday that harpy eagles have returned to the Belize landscape in the way that ospreys have returned to Idaho.

No comments: