Hellgate Ospreys

Location: Missoula, MT

Camera Host: Montana Osprey Project on Facebook

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April 16, 2018

Hellgate Osprey Cam Has A New View!

Check out the Hellgate Osprey cam's new view! This second camera captures all of the action on the "owl pole" just downriver from the nest site. It features a view on top of a utility pole that has a plastic owl mounted on it below the spot where Louis and Iris often stop to eat their fish. Watch Iris alight on the pole with this fresh afternoon catch! 

April 12, 2018

Afternoon Copulation At The Hellgate Osprey Nest

Watch Iris and Louis in one of many early-breeding-season copulation attempts. 

April 10, 2018

Iris And Louis Work Together To Place Unwieldy Branch

Sometimes it takes two Ospreys to build a home. After Iris arrives to the nest with a stick the size of a small tree, the Hellgate pair work together to maneuver the new addition into its rightful place. 

April 16, 2018

Hellgate Osprey Cam Has A New View!

Check out the Hellgate Osprey cam's new view! This second camera captures all of the action on the "owl pole" just downriver from the nest site. It features a view on top of a utility pole that has a plastic owl mounted on it below the spot where Louis and Iris often stop to eat their fish. Watch Iris alight on the pole with this fresh afternoon catch! 

April 12, 2018

Afternoon Copulation At The Hellgate Osprey Nest

Watch Iris and Louis in one of many early-breeding-season copulation attempts. 

April 10, 2018

Iris And Louis Work Together To Place Unwieldy Branch

Sometimes it takes two Ospreys to build a home. After Iris arrives to the nest with a stick the size of a small tree, the Hellgate pair work together to maneuver the new addition into its rightful place. 

April 06

Iris Returns To Hellgate!

Just in time for the weekend, Iris returns to the Hellgate nest in Missoula, Montana, and reunites with her mate Louis on the nest! Last year, the pair spent nearly three weeks copulating and building up the nest before the first egg was laid. We can't wait to see what 2018 holds for this Osprey pair.  More...

April 04

Louis Returns To Missoula, Montana

An Osprey has landed in Hellgate Canyon! A male, likely Louis, was spotted on the Hellgate Osprey cam today at around 12:24 PM nest time. Now the waiting game begins for Iris, his mate. Louis was the early bird in 2017, arriving one day before Iris's return on April 7. We're hoping to see the pair reunited in the coming days. More...

March 23

New Cam, Perch Installed at the Hellgate Nest

Over two days in late March, a new camera and microphone were installed on the Hellgate nest platform, and a perch was built to provide additional places within easy view for the adults to perch. The cam is an Axis Q6115-E, broadcasting at 1080p, 60 frames per second. The perch was constructed of untreated redwood, lag screwed and braced to the pole and the crossbrace underneath the nest platform.  

Osprey

Tree

Nest Placement

Ospreys require nest sites in open surroundings for easy approach, with a wide, sturdy base and safety from ground predators (such as raccoons). Nests are usually built on snags, treetops, or crotches between large branches and trunks; on cliffs or human-built platforms. Usually the male finds the site before the female arrives.

Nest Description

Osprey nests are built of sticks and lined with bark, sod, grasses, vines, algae, or flotsam and jetsam. The male usually fetches most of the nesting material—sometimes breaking dead sticks off nearby trees as he flies past—and the female arranges it. Nests on artificial platforms, especially in a pair’s first season, are relatively small—less than 2.5 feet in diameter and 3–6 inches deep. After generations of adding to the nest year after year, Ospreys can end up with nests 10–13 feet deep and 3–6 feet in diameter—easily big enough for a human to sit in.

Clutch Size

1-4 eggs

Incubation Period

36-42 days

Nestling Period

50-55 days

Egg Description

Cream to pinkish cinnamon; wreathed and spotted with reddish brown.

Condition at Hatching

Capable of limited motion. Covered with down and with eyes open.

Fish

Food

The Osprey is the only hawk on the continent that eats almost exclusively live fish. In North America, more than 80 species of live fresh- and saltwater fish account for 99 percent of the Osprey’s diet. Captured fish usually measure about 6–13 inches in length and weigh one-third to two-thirds of a pound. The largest catch on record weighed about 2.5 pounds. On very rare occasions, Ospreys have been observed feeding on fish carcasses or on birds, snakes, voles, squirrels, muskrats, and salamanders. Ospreys probably get most of the water they need from the flesh of their prey, although there are reports of adults drinking on hot days.

Typical Voice

Ospreys have high-pitched, whistling voices. Their calls can be given as a slow succession of chirps during flight or as an alarm call—or strung together into a series that rises in intensity and then falls away, similar to the sound of a whistling kettle taken rapidly off a stove. This second type of call is most often given as an unfamiliar Osprey approaches the nest. As the perceived threat increases, the call can build in intensity to a wavering squeal.
more sounds

See full Species Info at All About Birds

About the Hellgate Canyon Ospreys

This Osprey nest is at the mouth of the spectacular Hellgate Canyon at the edge of Missoula, Montana. It’s in a very busy location, right outside the Riverside Health Care Center and next to busy parking lots, a construction site, a busy highway, and a railroad. However, it’s also an ideal location in many ways, since these Ospreys have riverfront property only about 50 feet from the Clark Fork River. Being so close to people does not bother them, and hundreds of people enjoy watching them every day.

The female Osprey at this nest is called Iris because she has very distinctive spots on her iris, especially in her left eye. These iris patterns serve as individual barcodes and allow us to identify her. She has nested at this site for many years. Her mate of many years, Stanley, did not return in 2016, and she attempted to breed with a new male dubbed “Louis”, named after an influential local Salish elder named Louis Adams

Ospreys are consummate fishing birds, and this pair fishes primarily from the Clark Fork River and nearby Rattlesnake Creek. They use their 6–7 foot wingspans to soar above the water, looking for fish, then diving as deep as 3 feet for shallow-swimming prey. Adult Ospreys usually weigh 3–4 pounds, and they can carry prey up to 50 percent of their own weight. Ospreys can live up to 25 years, and they typically lay 1–4 eggs in a clutch.

Most Osprey pairs are monogamous, staying paired across seasons and beginning nesting soon after each returns from a long migration. Both sexes incubate the eggs. The female sits for the majority of the time (including throughout the night) while the male provisions her with fish. After the eggs hatch, the male continues to bring fish to the nest; the female exclusively broods the young and dissects their meals for about a month after hatching. Later on, when the chicks no longer require her protection and their appetite for fish increases, she will leave the nest and go fishing.

The nest used to be on a power pole about 200 feet west of where it is now. This was dangerous, since the Ospreys could have been electrocuted, causing fires and power blackouts. In 2007, the current nest platform was erected to provide a safer place for the Ospreys to nest. They took to it immediately. Getting the new nest platform set up, and installing and running to high resolution camera for this feed for you to enjoy has been a large effort involving many groups: Riverside Health Care Center, Karen Wagner, Kate Davis and Raptors of the Rockies, Northwestern Energy, Dave Taylor Roofing Company, and Drs. Heiko Langner and Erick Greene of the University of Montana.

About Project Osprey

These Ospreys are an important part of a much larger project focusing on the health of aquatic systems and Osprey populations in western Montana. In collaboration with Rob Domenech (Director of the Raptor View Research Institute), Dr. Heiko Langner and Dr. Erick Greene started Project Osprey in 2007. They have been monitoring about 200 Osprey nests in western Montana.

Because of their top position in the food web, Ospreys are useful indicators of local environmental conditions. Young Ospreys eat only fish their parents catch within a few miles of the nest, so these young birds reflect the condition of the local fish population. And although many hawk species can be touchy—even dangerous—to work with, Ospreys make good subjects: they tolerate human activity well and they actually seek out human-made structures to use as nest platforms.

Osprey populations declined to near-extinction in the Lower 48 states after World War II as a consequence of exposure to DDT-based pesticides. The dwindling Osprey population helped trigger research into problems with DDT, resulting in its ban in the United States in 1972. Since then, Ospreys have returned to many large water bodies. Studies such as this one help scientists keep a watchful eye on how Ospreys—and the water bodies they depend on—are doing.

Since young Ospreys eat fish that their parents catch usually within a few miles of the nest, the young birds reflect the condition of the local water quality and fish. When the chicks are large enough to band, the researchers use a large bucket truck to get up to the nests. They take very small blood and feather samples from the chicks and put them quickly back in their nest. These samples are analyzed in Dr. Langner’s state-of-the-art environmental chemistry lab. The good news is that levels of some of the heavy metals of particular concern in western Montana (arsenic, lead, cadmium, zinc, and copper) occur at very low levels in the Osprey chicks. The bad news is that levels of mercury, a powerful neurotoxin, occurs in very high levels in Osprey chicks in some places. Project Osprey is now focusing on this serious environmental problem.