Hackensack Riverkeeper
231 Main Street
Hackensack, NJ 07601
201-968-0336 (FAX)

July 20, 2007


Jersey City Osprey Fledge!

231 Main Street
Hackensack, NJ 07601
201-968-0336 (FAX)

July 20, 2007


Contact: Captain Bill Sheehan (cell: 201-755-6466) or Hugh Carola (cell: 201-403-1992)


Meadowlands history is made as raptor chicks fly from their riverside nest

Jersey City, NJ – One week ago today on Friday, July 13 at 7 PM, natural history was made on the banks of the Hackensack River when the first Osprey chick to hatch in the New Jersey Meadowlands since the early 20th Century took to the air. From its nest located at Public Service Electric & Gas Company’s Hudson Generating Station, the bird flapped its wings, hopped, hovered, and then flew for about a hundred feet along the river before perching on a utility pole.

“It was glorious!” said Captain Hugh Carola, who was at the helm of the Riverkeeper vessel Robert H. Boyle when the bird took off. “I figured I’d give our guests a treat and show them the Ospreys but little did I know just how much of a treat it would be.”

As best as anyone can tell, it was the first time in at least fifty years – and possibly as long as seventy-five – since Ospreys last fledged in the Meadowlands. Habitat loss, water pollution, DDT use after World War Two and the unrestrained killing of raptors during late 19th and early 20th Century led to their extirpation from urban watersheds like the Hackensack.

Ospreys are large raptors that feed exclusively on live fish. Although closely related to hawks and eagles, they are unique among raptors in that they dive completely underwater to catch their prey. They are found on every continent except Antarctica with approximately 350 pairs nesting in New Jersey.
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“If anyone still needs proof that the Hackensack River is well on its way to recovery, all they need to do is look at these magnificent birds living and breeding right here,” said Hackensack Riverkeeper Captain Bill Sheehan. “Ten years ago I predicted that Ospreys would return to our river and now here they are.”

At that same time, Sheehan successfully lobbied PSE&G to install a series of nest platforms on several of its properties along the lower Hackensack River.

This year marked the third (and first successful) attempt by Ospreys to nest at the Jersey City location. Two years ago, the birds abandoned the nest before any eggs were laid and last year a pair of young hatched but fell victim to predation by gulls. After discussions between Carola, Sheehan and PSE&G executives Richard Dwyer and Russ Furnari, the company took extra care to minimize disturbances to the birds. In addition, Ken Jennings, Assistant Division Chief for Hudson County Parks reached out to local anglers, urging them to maintain a good distance from the nest which is adjacent to a well-known fishing hotspot.

“Many folks might look askance at the birds’ choice to nest next to a coal-fired power plant but it’s not what’s on land that matters to them but what’s in the river,” said Carola. “And what’s in the river are plenty of fish – for them and for people.”

It is expected that the Osprey family will remain in the vicinity for about a month until the parents abandon the young to begin their southward migration. For their part, the young have a difficult road ahead of them as ornithologists estimate that upwards of fifty percent of all raptors hatched in any given year do not survive. If the Jersey City birds do survive the critical next critical few weeks and learn to fish, they will stand a good chance of returning to the Hackensack River one day to raise young of their own.

“I think they’ll make it,” said Captain Sheehan. “After all, they’re from Hudson County; and that makes them tough.”

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Digital photographs are available upon request.

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