Aug 26, 2008

Ospreys -"Canaries" In The Columbia River Coal Mine

An article in the August 25 The Olympian - (Olympia, Washington)
discusses the use of ospreys in monitoring water quality on the Willamette and lower Columbia rivers:

"Worldwide, scientists use ospreys as "canaries in the coal mine" for pollution entering rivers."

"Osprey are fish-eating hawks at the top of the aquatic food chain," USGS researcher Jim Kaiser said. "Thus, they are useful in monitoring the health of the waterways."

That's why Kaiser and other USGS researchers have been taking egg samples, drawing blood and monitoring reproductive success of ospreys on the Willamette and lower Columbia since the early 1990s. The raptors aren't shy about setting up nests in the most heavily populated, industrialized stretches of river.

"One hundred percent of their diet is coming from the river," said USGS scientist Charles Henny, who has been studying ospreys since his doctoral dissertation in 1969.

He added that the raptors make excellent subjects because they tolerate short-term disturbance by scientists"

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