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Citizen Osprey Monitoring Program


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 Osprey - Chuck Fullmer
Adult Osprey - photo by Chuck Fullmer

Why monitor ospreys?
Delaware's osprey population is one of the state's greatest conservation success stories. From the days of DDT and the collapse of many raptor populations, including bald eagles and peregrine falcons, ospreys in Delaware have rebounded and the population continues to grow and expand state-wide. Now a bird commonly seen during the summer months, this species can serve as an important environmental indicator and provides insight into issues that may affect it and other coastal birds. But, in order to keep tabs on the osprey populations, the Delaware Division of Fish & Wildlife needs assistance from dedicated volunteers. The Citizen Osprey Monitoring Program provides volunteers with the opportunity to continue to collect important information by monitoring osprey platforms and nests near their home or workplace.

In 2016, the Division of Fish & Wildlife took another step to increase the effectiveness of the program. Volunteers now provide osprey nest observations to the OspreyWatch online reporting application hosted by the Center for Conservation Biology at By participating in the OspreyWatch, Delaware can not only keep track of resident ospreys but also contribute to a broader regional effort to monitor this species! The data for Delaware will continue to be analyzed by Species Conservation & Research Program staff to improve our understanding of osprey arrival dates, nest success and other aspects of osprey biology in the state.

Information will also continue to support conservation decisions for the osprey and assist the state in identifying any new or emerging issues that could affect both ospreys and people. Data gathered about this majestic bird can serve as indicators of environmental health. Because ospreys are high on the food chain and eat foods - primarily fish - that accumulate toxins, their status can foretell problems that also may affect humans. Ospreys also rely mostly on coastal habitats and may be affected by climate change and sea level rise.

What do volunteers do?
Between March and September, volunteers monitor osprey nests throughout Delaware to document osprey nesting activity and important breeding milestones. (Please note that this project will not involve the repair or construction of nesting platforms.)

Protocol for the Osprey Nest Monitoring Project
Volunteers are asked to visit the OspreyWatch website to identify or report an osprey nest site to monitor under the Delaware Fish and Wildlife Monitoring Group. Participants will enter their data directly to OspreyWatch and will be able to see how their contributions play a role in osprey conservation! 

What you will need:

  • Binoculars or a spotting scope
  • Data sheets and volunteer logs
  • Clipboard
  • Field guide
  • Hat/Sunscreen
  • Internet access and a computer

Time period and observation schedule

  • Identify a spot to monitor the osprey without disturbing them. Osprey should not be aware of your presence. Cars make great blinds.
  • Begin observing in early March and look for birds building nests or landing on platforms. Observe until the chicks have fledged in the summer or the adults have abandoned the nest without success.
  • Nest should be observed at least once every two weeks. It is best to observe during calm weather for clear viewing.
  • Observations can take place any time of the day before twilight and should span a minimum of 10 minutes.

Data collection and reporting

  • At each observation, complete the fields on your data sheet, paying particular attention to key events to document on your activity reports.
  • After each observation, visit to enter your data online. See the User Guide for more detailed guidance on how to enter data.
  • Enter nesting diaries and activity reports throughout the breeding season.

To volunteer
New volunteers should complete an Individual Volunteer Application Form and submit to the Delaware Division of Fish & Wildlife Project Coordinator as below:

Osprey Project Coordinator
6180 Hay Point Landing Drive
Smyrna, DE 19977 302-735-3600

Having done so, new volunteers should then join the Delaware Fish and Wildlife Monitoring Group.

Please print the following documents to assist you in your monitoring efforts in the field:

Osprey Nest Monitoring Protocol
Osprey Monitoring Data Sheet
User Guide for Delaware Fish and Wildlife Monitoring Group

Follow these guidelines to complete your Volunteer Timesheets and submit to the Project Coordinators on a monthly basis. Scanned copies may be submitted via email. Please submit all hard copies by Sept. 30, 2019.

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