Why the osprey is lesser-spotted in the South

Posted by pt91 at Sep 12, 2011 04:10 PM |
The iconic British osprey is slowly recovering from near-extinction, but a University of Leicester PhD student says they need more help to re-colonise the whole of the UK.
Why the osprey is lesser-spotted in the South

Credit: John Wright

At the British Ecological Society’s Annual Meeting today, doctoral student in the Department of Biology Tim Mackerill presented findings that show that ospreys have a strong tendency to return to breed close to where they hatched.

The discovery was made by researchers from the University of Leicester, the Rutland Osprey Project and the Highland Foundation for Wildlife by comparing the breeding locations of around 100 ospreys in relation to where they fledged.

Once common throughout the UK, the osprey was driven to near extinction by Victorian egg collectors during the 19th century. It was not until the protection of a breeding pair of ospreys in the 1950s at Loch Garten in Scotland that a slow increase in numbers began, and there are now more than 230 breeding pairs of the iconic fish-eating bird of prey.

Despite the availability of suitable natural habitats outside of Scotland, the osprey will return to breed close to the site where they were reared, a behaviour generally known as natal philopatry.

Tim argues that to help the ospreys expand to southern Britain much faster, osprey chicks should be brought from Scotland into those parts of the country. This has been done at Rutland Water where 64 ospreys are now breeding successfully – and with just a short trip from the University via the A47, you can see them firsthand.

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