The Osprey (Pandion haliaetus), also known as a “fish-hawk” is one of the larger birds of prey found in Minnesota, notably near rivers and lakes. They have a distinctive eye stripe on their head, with notable dark wings and backs and a light-colored belly.
The Osprey nests in spring and summer. They build large bulky nests of branches and sticks, similar to eagle nests, however always near water. The male usually finds the materials and the female builds. They line the nests with bark, grasses, and other plant materials. They will also add manmade debris they find along the shoreline such as plastic bags, water toys, fishing line. They will return to their nest annually and continue to add materials with each season. Nests can get as large as 10 feet deep and 3-6 ft diameter.
Females lay two-four cream- colored speckled eggs that hatch in about 38 days of incubation, however not all hatch at once. Fledglings leave the nest after about 50-55 days.
They migrate south when water sources become ice covered in late fall /early winter, returning to Minnesota in mid-April.
The Osprey is the only raptor that almost exclusively eats live fish. They usually plunge feet-first into the water to catch fish with their sharp talons. They have special barbed pads on their feet that help them hold onto slippery fish. At incredible speed, they dive from great heights down to 3 feet underwater to capture their prey.
As many other birds of prey, Osprey have suffered from the deadly effects of pesticides (DDT), persecution and habitat loss. At one point they were officially listed as a Special Concern Species in Minnesota, however, reintroduction efforts have sustained and stabilized their population to a healthy level, removing them from the list in 2015. Read about the Osprey’s success story in MN.
Occasionally Osprey nests become a fire hazard or a human health hazard when they are built on power or cell phone structures. In these cases it may be necessary to remove the nest. Whether it is an inactive or active nest, a permit is required for nest removal (taking). Under permits issued by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, a number of these nests are removed each year when osprey nest in hazardous sites.
- A nest is considered inactive when there no eggs or young in the nest. An inactive nest requires only a free permit issued from the State (MN DNR). )
- A nest is considered active when eggs, or young are present at the nest site. An active nest requires permits from both the State (MN DNR) and Federal government (USFWS).
- For more information, contact Heidi Cyr at [email protected], 651-259-5107.
- Osprey Protection and Nest Removal Regulation
Federal and State Rules and Statutes Governing Osprey Nest Removal in Minnesota
Ospreys are federally protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) (16 U.S.C. 703-712) and state protected by Chapter 97A of the Minnesota Statutes. Pursuant to the federal act, it is unlawful to take, possess, buy, sell, purchase, or barter any migratory bird (including the Osprey), including feathers or other parts, nests, eggs, or products, except as allowed by implementing regulations, Although both active and inactive Osprey nests are protected federally, only active nests require federal permits for taking.
The specific state regulation protecting Ospreys is Minnesota Statute 97A.405, Subd. 1.
Protected Wild Animals: Unless allowed under the game and fish laws, a person may not take, buy sell, transport, or possess protected wild animals of this state without a license.
97A.401 Subd. 47 Taking; “Taking” means pursuing, shooting, killing, capturing, trapping, snaring, angling, spearing, or netting wild animals, or placing, setting drawing, or using a net, trap, or other device to take wild animals. Taking includes attempting to take wild animals, and assisting another person in taking wild animals.
Exceptions to these regulations are provided in statute 97A.40 Subd. 5., which allow the Commissioner of Natural Resources the authority to issue a special permit to take animals doing damage such as:
Wild Animals damaging property: Special permits may be issued with or without a fee to take protected wild animals or to remove or destroy their dens, nests, eggs, houses or dams for the purpose of preventing or reducing damage or injury to people, property, agricultural crops, or other interests.
State permits to take inactive Osprey nests are issued by The Commissioner of Natural Resources. Requests for such permits should be submitted via email to the MN DNR, Division of Ecological and Water Resources, Nongame Wildlife Program, Permits program. OR Permit information can be found under Wildlife Removal and Depredation, contact Heidi Cyr at [email protected] 651-259-5107 https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/permits/animals/index.html
Federal permits to take nests:
Phone: 612-713-5436. Request for permits can be submitted via Email [email protected]
NOTE: There are NO provisions in state or federal law for verbal authorizations to remove active or inactive nests.
Description of State Permit Conditions
- Only inactive nests may be taken. Inactive nests may be determined by the absence of any egg or dependent (i.e., flightless) young in the nest. Permittees may take inactive osprey nests at any time while the permit is valid, which shall only be between the dates October 1st through April 1st of the year. Note: Between April 2nd and September 30th of each year, a permit may be issued for a nest if it is determined by the Nongame Wildlife Specialist that the nest is inactive. The permit is not transferable, but sub-permittees designated and instructed by the permittee may assist in the permitted activities.
- The permit must be readily available for inspection at all times while engaging in the permitted activities.
- The permit does not authorize access to any public or private properties.
- Permits include an expiration date, but are subject to revocation prior to that time.
- MN DNR strongly recommends that a replacement nest platform be installed at or near the location of the nest removal for the following reasons:
- Ospreys are strongly attached to their nest sites and will attempt to re-build their nest after it has been removed unless another suitable site is provided nearby.
- Installing a new platform eliminates the potential for future nesting hazards or problems and also eliminates the need for getting a removal permit issued every year.
- In addition, a platform provides valuable habitat for the ospreys, ensures their population will not decline and is a sensible environmental response to birds that are adapting to human intervention.
Osprey Nest Platform Instruction
Osprey nest in tall artificial structures (telephone poles, channel markers or platforms) and snags or broken-topped trees. They prefer a clear view of the nearby area, access to water for fishing, and high enough to evade predators.