Lake Coeur d’Alene osprey boat cruise set for July 11

The osprey, sometimes known as the sea hawk, is a fish-eating bird of prey that inhabits a wide variety of nesting locations near bodies of water that can provide a food supply. This large raptor is more than 24 inches tall with a 71-inch wingspan. (USFWS photo)

 

COEUR d’ALENE, Idaho — An osprey boat cruise has been scheduled for Saturday morning July 11, from 9 to 11 on Lake Coeur d’Alene.

Boarding begins at 8:30 from the east side of the Coeur d’Alene Resort boardwalk near Tubbs Hill and McEuen Park. Parking is available under Front Street, on nearby city streets and in the pay lot at the North Idaho Museum.

The osprey is a fish-eating hawk commonly seen in northern Idaho. At least 100 pairs nest annually in the Coeur d’Alene Lake region including the lower reaches of the St. Joe and Coeur d’Alene Rivers.

Adult osprey along with the young-of-the-year birds begin their annual migration in mid-September, traveling all the way to Baja California, Central America, and many all the way to South America. The adults return in late winter/early spring to the area where they originally hatched.

At least 100 pairs of osprey nest annually in the Coeur d’Alene Lake region including the lower reaches of the St. Joe and Coeur d’Alene Rivers.
At least 100 pairs of osprey nest annually in the Coeur d’Alene Lake region including the lower reaches of the St. Joe and Coeur d’Alene Rivers. (USFWS photo)

The University of Idaho and the Idaho Fish and Game Department have been studying and banding osprey at Coeur d’Alene Lake for over 25 years. The work is done to determine survival and mortality rates and to further define the migration patterns and wintering areas of the population.

To conduct this research, young-of-the-year pre-flight osprey are briefly taken from nests just before fledging. A band with a unique number is applied to one leg and the young birds are safely placed back in the nests.

The adult osprey don’t like the process; they take flight when the research boat approaches. They also make their displeasure known with loud, screeching calls intended to scare the biologists away and to tell the young osprey to lie down flat in an effort to hide. Yet, these brave biologists have over 30 years of experience banding osprey and they can understand ‘osprey’ language. Knowing the osprey are only using scare tactics, they go about their work and get away from the nest as quickly as possible.

The banding process goes very quickly. After the leg bands are applied and the biologists move away, the adults immediately return to the nests to find their young safe and secure…but sporting new leg bands.

The newly hatched chicks weigh only 1.8 – 2.1 ounces and fledge in 8 to 10 weeks.  (P. McGowan USFWS photo)
The newly hatched chicks weigh only 1.8 – 2.1 ounces and fledge in 8 to 10 weeks. (P. McGowan USFWS photo)

No one knows if having a leg band is a status symbol or an embarrassment in the osprey world, but the bands allow for the gathering of some remarkable information to help biologists learn about the species and to protect osprey populations.

The public is invited to watch the banding process.  The cost of the trip is $15 for adults. Children under 12 are free when with a paying adult. A family rate of $35 covers two adults and three children up to age 18. Seniors and students are $10.

Space is limited to 150 people and reservations are required and can be made by calling the Coeur d’Alene Chamber of Commerce at (208) 664-3194.

Wildlife biologists will be in a small boat that will travel alongside the Lake Coeur d’Alene Charter Cruise boat. Well known wildlife biologist and renowned osprey researcher Dr. Wayne Melquist will take young of the year birds from osprey nests and band them, while the passengers on the cruise boat watch and take photos.

Speakers on the cruise boat will include wildlife biologists and avian experts, including Beth Paragamian representing Idaho Fish and Game. They will be on board the cruise boat to provide fascinating biological information on ospreys and other wildlife species.  Bring binoculars and a camera.  A sun hat and sun screen are advised.

Invited guest speakers also include the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality’s CdA Lake Management Team, the BLM, the Inland NW Land Conservancy, and the Cougar Bay Osprey Preservation Association.

The annual event is sponsored by the Natural Resources Committee of the Coeur d’Alene Chamber of Commerce. Other organizations include The Nature Conservancy, Idaho Fish and Game, Idaho Fish and Wildlife Foundation, University of Idaho, Audubon Society and the Coeur d’Alene Resort.