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Raptor Migration

Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory and the National Park Service outfitted two female Ospreys near Rocky Mountain National Park with satellite tracking units on June 19, 2013.

Mike Britten Holding OspreyThe solar-powered units, worn by the birds like a backpack, provide biologists with the locations of the birds three times a day. This information can reveal the home ranges, migration routes, stopover sites and winter ranges for the Ospreys to inform the conservation of this species throughout its annual life cycle.

Another goal of the project is to strengthen connections between Estes Park, Colorado, at the door of Rocky Mountain National Park, and its Sister City, Monteverde, Costa Rica, through their shared wildlife resources. Projects like this one that show connections between breeding habitats in North America with wintering regions in Mexico, Central America and South America are needed to effectively conserve migrant bird species.

Educators from RMBO and the National Park Service are working with local schools to incorporate the Ospreys' migration into classroom programs. Students will learn about the technology used to track birds and create maps, and how information on migration is important for bird conservation.

See where the birds' migrated by clicking on the links below. The black points show the bird's location for the past three days we received signals. The white points show the bird's movements since August 25, 2013.

Shadow's nest in summer of 2013 was along the shore of Shadow Mountain Reservoir near Grand Lake, Colorado. She and her mate successfully fledged three young in 2013. View Shadow's location using Google maps »

Rainbow's nest in summer of 2013 was near Rainbow Bay on the shore of Lake Granby in north-central Colorado. She and her mate successfully fledged two young in 2013. View Rainbow's location using Google maps »

Thank you to our partners at the National Park Service, USDA Forest Service's Arapaho Roosevelt National Forest and Mountain Parks Electric for contributing to this project.

Mike Britten Releases Rainbow

Above: Mike Britten with the National Park Service releases Rainbow after she was outfitted with a tracking unit. Top: Mike holds Rainbow right after she received her unit.

Fall 2014 update: Tracking both Ospreys has provided exciting and frustrating moments. In late March and late April of 2014, we lost signals for Rainbow completely for unknown reasons. We are still receiving signals from Shadow near her wintering site, but we have no idea if she is wearing the transmitter and present at that site.

There are several potential reasons we are no longer able to track the Ospreys: Feathers have covered the solar panel on the transmitter (for Rainbow) and it cannot charge; the tracking units have failed and are no longer working (also possible for Rainbow); something has happened to one or both birds; or the units have fallen off the birds.

We communicated with Arapaho National Forest biologists who monitor the Grand Lake Osprey population to determine if Rainbow or Shadow returned to their nests this summer. They did not have any confirmed sightings of either Osprey during the 2014 breeding season.

While ours are the only marked (banded) Ospreys in the Grand Lake area, as far as we know, it is difficult to see bands on Ospreys. With 60 to 70 nests in the area, we can't be certain if Rainbow or Shadow returned and used a different nest site, or if they returned without transmitters.

For more information:
Jason Beason
Special Monitoring Projects Coordinator
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