Osprey Tracking Map

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Prof. Rob Bierregaard, one of the world's leading osprey experts, carefully attaches Microwave Telemetry transponders to the osprey, allowing us to track their location.

Emmy Nicklin

The osprey, often referred to as "fish hawk," is an iconic bird that requires a clean environment and abundant food source—primarily menhaden and other fish. CBF's Osprey Tracking Project ran from 2001 to 2017 and allowed students and teachers to track birds—ones they had seen during field experiences at CBF education centers—from their home and classroom computers.

About the Project

CBF's Osprey Tracking project started in 2011 when conservation-minded Microwave Telemetry, Inc. (MTI) offered their services to support our education programs. The company manufactures devices researchers use to track avian and marine species. We first field tested one of the portable tracking units when two CBF staffers circumnavigated the Chesapeake Bay watershed by bike.  After a few more technological advances, it was possible to create this site, where students and teachers could follow the daily feeding patterns and seasonal migrations of osprey. 

After migrating to Central and South America for the winter months, ospreys return to the same nest sites on creeks, rivers, and shorelines of the Chesapeake Bay every year. Once they arrive they may travel many miles a day in search of supplies for their nest and fish for their young.

The criteria for choosing the birds were that they reside in an accessible nest and that the nest be close to student field programs operated daily by CBF. The location was critical so that students on field experiences could see the birds in the wild, discuss their habits, and then follow them online once back in the classroom. Teachers used the maps to integrate technology with biological concepts such as migration, habitat, and food  sources and to infuse STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) principles such as communication and collaboration into group activities. A lesson plan about ospreys provided teachers with further classroom material.

Our ospreys have moved on, but this historical Osprey Tracking Map Data continues to serve as a tool students and teachers can use to better understand these beautiful creatures.

This image shows combined tracking data for three ospreys—Nick, Hackett, and Holly—from March through November 2017

To access maps and tracking data for each bird, use the following links:

On Movebank select the [i] icon to access the download (details) menu and download a spreadsheet of the GSM data.

As a rule of thumb, click the link to view the map to gain a general understanding of the bird's activities, and download the GSM data for specifics.

Special thanks to the team at Microwave Telemetry, Inc. and for the technical support provided by Rob Bierregaard PhD and Bryan Watts PhD, without whom this program would not be possible.

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