Reintroducing Ospreys in Switzerland

The project Reintroducing the Osprey in Switzerland, partially funded by MAVA, consists of moving Osprey chicks (about 6 weeks old) from healthy populations to Switzerland, where this species became extinct as a breeding species about a century ago. They live in an aviary for about a month, and are released once they are ready to fly. After about another 6 weeks the birds then migrate to Africa, where they will spend the first few years of their life. This process, known as “hacking”, has already been successfully undertaken in conservation projects in many other places in the world. In effect, the young Ospreys are “reprogrammed” into thinking that they were born in Switzerland, since Ospreys almost always return to breed in their place of birth.

The project is collaborating with a number of countries in Europe in order to restore Osprey populations in suitable habitat where they previously bred. In Switzerland, the goal is to have at least 60 young Ospreys successfully migrate. To date, a total of 38 Ospreys released since 2015 have left on migration, and it is planned to release 24 more by 2020.

Good news is that two birds released in 2016 have already returned to Europe this year: Fusée (ringed PR9) spent May – August 2018 in Switzerland including one month at the release site, and Mouche (PR4) was photographed in May 2018 in France.  Incredibly, Fusée, last seen in Switzerland on August 26, was then photographed in northern Senegal near St-Louis on 16 September 2018 (and since then seen several times in the same place).  It seems likely that Fusée will spend the entire winter in this rich wetland. The site is about 20 km from where another Osprey, also released by the project in 2016, was seen on 22 December 2016 — in the Langue de Barbarie National Park. Finally, a young bird released this summer, Georges (F04), was spotted fishing in a reserve in Andalusia (almost certainly en route to Africa).

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