Breeding pairs of osprey are on the rise in the UK

·2-min read
Photo credit: Jeff J Mitchell  - Getty Images
Photo credit: Jeff J Mitchell - Getty Images

The Guardian has reported the successful hatching of two osprey chicks in Leicestershire this summer, the first in two centuries. It's the latest triumph in a series of recent successes in bringing osprey back to the UK.

Hunted for sport and shot by gamekeepers (who saw them as a threat to fish stocks), osprey became extinct in England in 1840 and Scotland in 1916. However, thanks not only to new legislation, but the tireless efforts of conservationists, osprey numbers are now steadily increasing.

In 1959, a pair successfully nested and bred in Loch Garten, Cairngorms, protected by Operation Osprey, a 24-hour RSPB protection watch. By 2018, breeding pairs in Scotland had grown to 250, with the total UK population currently estimated at around 1,500 birds.

Photo credit: Future Publishing / Getting Images
Photo credit: Future Publishing / Getting Images

Between 1996 and 2001, Leicestershire & Rutland Wildlife Trust relocated 64 osprey chicks from Scottish nests to Rutland Water in England, made possible by the Rutland Osprey Project. As a result, more than 200 chicks have fledged, further boosting osprey populations.

“It’s been a tremendous success,” said Joe Davis, Rutland Water reserves manager. “Birds from Rutland have spread out across England and Wales, or they’ve been translocated. From a human perspective, we’re making good on what we destroyed.

“We shot ospreys out of existence. We’re bringing the birds back and undoing the harm we did. They bring people so much happiness and they’re important in the food chain, including for healthy fish stocks.”

Photo credit: Nick Ut / Getty Images
Photo credit: Nick Ut / Getty Images

Osprey are a spectacular fish-eating bird of prey, with a broad wingspan of 150cm (5ft). They naturally congregate around large watercourses such as rivers, lakes or coastal areas, and can be seen catching fish with their talons.

Thanks to the work of conservation projects, these beautiful birds of prey can now be found the length and breadth of the UK, from Cumbria and Wales to Dorset and North Yorkshire.

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