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Construction Stands Still For Osprey Family

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The Migratory Bird Treaty Act protects Ospreys and more than 1000 other migratory birds. The act is based on a treaty with Japan, Russia, Mexico, and Canada.
Dan Rauch
The Migratory Bird Treaty Act protects Ospreys and more than 1000 other migratory birds. The act is based on a treaty with Japan, Russia, Mexico, and Canada.

Through a pair of binoculars, Dan Rauch is looking at an osprey nest -- it's a big one, a good 3 or 4 feet across. The bird itself, he says, has a wing span of 4.5 feet.

"It's got a dark eye stripe down one side and a very yellow eye. They're keeping an eye on us," says Rauch, a biologist with the District Department of the Environment.

Osprey are large dark brown and white birds of prey. This couple may have migrated from as far away as the Amazon or even the southern tip of South America to spend the summer here. And there's something unique about their nest in Anacostia Park: It's in the middle of a construction site.

"It's decided to put its nest on top of a 75-foot crane," Rauch says. "Unfortunately, it thought it was just a tree. So it's got a great view of the river, they're safe from predators. So it's a perfect place for a nest."

Perfect for the osprey. Not quite as perfect for the District Department of Transportation, where Gloria Jeff is a project manager.

"An interesting turn of events is the best way I can describe it," Jeff says.

Construction of what would be a pedestrian foot bridge is on hold for about two months because the birds are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

"[The act] protects all migratory birds. You're not allowed to hunt, keep them from nesting, any kind of thing that could harm them, unless they're game animals," she says.

And so that means this crane isn't going anywhere until the eggs hatch and the chicks learn to fly. DDOT and Jeff are taking this in stride.

"It has posed an opportunity for us to partner with nature," Jeff says.

The birds and their nest will be visible at Anacostia Park for the next few months, and the public is invited to go see them.

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