As New Jersey's osprey population continues to grow, the state is turning to citizen observers and private groups to help monitor the threatened birds.
Red bands are being placed on young ospreys to encourage citizens who observe the birds to report their sightings, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. The new initiative goes beyond the traditional bands used by scientists to track bird migration and age.
The state Division of Fish and Wildlife and the nonprofit Conserve Wildlife Foundation said this week that there are an estimated 567 nesting pairs of ospreys in the state. About two young osprey are born per nest, which is twice the minimum needed to maintain a stable population.
The number of osprey had dropped to 53 pairs in 1973 after their habitats were destroyed and DDT-based insecticides were used. The birds were classified as "endangered."
Kathleen Clark, the state biologist who helped lead the survey, says the population is expected to keep growing. She said the birds will likely be upgraded from "threatened" status when they are up for review again.
"When I started in my career 30 years ago, ospreys were one of our focal species," Clark said. "Once they looked like they were getting stable, we were pulling back our effort on it."
She said ospreys are usually tolerant of human observation and can be a useful way to connect the public with environmental research.