Like many other birds of prey, osprey (Pandion haliaeetus) populations declined due to pesticide use in the mid-1900s. Populations rebounded during the latter part of the 1900s. The first study of osprey in Yellowstone National Park occurred in 1917 by M. P. Skinner, the park's first naturalist. It was not until 1987 that the Yellowstone National Park bird program began monitoring breeding osprey annually, although an extensive survey on reproduction, diet, and habitat was conducted during the 1970s. Since monitoring began, Yellowstone's population of osprey has been considered relatively stable. On average, 50% of nests succeed (produce eggs) each year, with each successful nest producing an average of one to two young. These statistics are slightly lower than expected for a stable and healthy population, and may be explained by the park's harsh environment. In a recent study, scientists found that declining nest success for osprey around Yellowstone Lake is due, in part, to the decline of cutthroat trout. Ospreys are surveyed via fixed-wing aircraft and by ground-based surveys from May through August. During the survey flights, the majority of nests are monitored for occupancy and breeding activity. In addition, all suitable lakes and rivers are surveyed for potential new territories and nest sites. Learn more...
Quick Facts about Osprey in Yellowstone
Did You Know?
The 1988 fires affected 793,880 acres or 36 percent of the park. Five fires burned into the park that year from adjacent public lands. The largest, the North Fork Fire, started from a discarded cigarette. It burned more than 410,000 acres.