Vineyard Osprey Monitoring Program

Osprey © John Moniz
Osprey © John Moniz

Ospreys are a signature species for Martha’s Vineyard. They represent renewal, triumph over hardship, and demonstrate that it is possible to bring a bird back from a dangerous decline. Osprey are easy to see, breed on the Vineyard, and are a beloved symbol of the island.

Today, more than 100 nesting pairs of Osprey grace the island during our spring and summer seasons and then migrate south for the winter. Intense efforts by Felix Neck staff, researchers, and volunteers have led to their current success.

2022 Osprey Census Summary

  • Active Nests: 104
  • Fledglings: 120
  • Housekeeper Nests: 3
  • Osprey on Island: 345
  • Monitoring Volunteers: 20
  • Volunteer Hours: 1,750

Get Involved

While much is known about these birds, research and monitoring efforts continue to be necessary to ascertain population trends; install, maintain, and manage nesting platforms; and learn more about their food resources, predation, and migration patterns.

History of Vineyard Ospreys

When Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary opened to the public in 1969, the island had just two pairs of nesting Osprey. The reasons for their critically low numbers were numerous, but a major threat to the species was DDT, a toxic pesticide that weakened the shells of Osprey eggs to the point of failure.

Once DDT was banned for use in the USA (we continue to manufacture and export it) in 1972, the hope was that Ospreys would return. But on the Island, Osprey populations remained low. Gus Ben David, Felix Neck's Sanctuary Directory at the time, quickly ascertained that the problem was with the availability of viable nesting sites—birds were nesting on telephone poles only to have their nests removed by utility staff.

Ben David began a program of installing nesting platforms at locations across the island. The first platform was erected at Mink Meadows, and over the years more than 160 nesting platforms have been erected.