July 27, 2023
A family that was fishing off the coast of Ocean City sprang into action on Wednesday to rescue a young osprey in distress. The exhausted bird, unable to fly, caught a ride on the back of the family's boat toward a nearby dock to be rescued by animal control officers.
Leyla Nedin described the unusual encounter in a Facebook post, sharing photos and a video of the osprey being taken to safety.
"We left the dock and headed to our usual flounder fishing spots. But moments before we threw our lines in, my hubby Jimmy noticed something in the water, and it appeared to be in distress," Nedin said.
The male osprey was struggling to stay afloat, so the family maneuvered their boat to help. They managed to get the osprey onto the boat, then immediately called the Ocean City Humane Society to arrange a meeting at the Ocean City Yacht Club. But the ride to the dock was nerve-wracking, according to Nedin.
"I'm not kidding when I say that we were on pins and needles as we slowly and steadily idled toward shore," Nedin said. "We were incredibly scared that (the osprey) would wobble off into the water or even into (the) engine. Thankfully, after a stressfully slow 15 minute ride we made it to shore."
OCNJ Animal Control and the Humane Society took the bird in and determined it was a baby. He was underweight and waterlogged but otherwise healthy. Humane Society shelter manager Deanna Dolan told NJ.com the osprey likely hadn't yet gained enough muscle to fly and was probably struggling in the heat.
Ospreys, also known as fish hawks, are fish-eating birds of prey of the raptor species. They're found worldwide, but the osprey was added to New Jersey's endangered species list in 1974 after the population was severely impacted by the use of toxic pesticides, including DDT, in the 1950s and '60s. DDT harmed the reproduction of many bird species before it was banned in the U.S. in 1972.
But the species is recovering, according to New Jersey's 2022 osprey survey. 733 occupied nests were recorded, up from a low of 50 in the mid-1970s. New Jersey ospreys mostly nest along the Atlantic coast, though some are in the Delaware Bay and other inland locations. The species is now listed as threatened.
Ospreys often build their nests on man-made structures. Last summer, the Golden Nugget casino drew praise from conservation groups for its decision to keep up an outdated billboard on the Atlantic City Expressway to not disturb an osprey nest.
Barnegat Light in Ocean County has a popular osprey camera that has livestreamed a nest since 2019.
The Humane Society plans to return the rescued Ocean City osprey to the same area where it was found, though first it will be taken to an animal rehab to be evaluated. They hope to find the bird's nest and reunite it with its family.
"The experience was an emotional one," Nedin said. "And needless to say, we were thrilled that the osprey was going to make it!"