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Osprey nesting atop cell tower
Site not far from Lake Lanier
An osprey tends to a nest atop a cell tower off Hwy. 20, just east of Trammel Road in eastern Forsyth County. - photo by By Marty Farrell

The osprey is back and looks as though it’s here to stay.

Just what is an osprey? It’s a large bird of prey with a 6-foot wingspan and a big appetite for fish.

Overcoming a precipitous drop in population in the 1950s and ’60s blamed on the widespread use of the pesticide DDT, the osprey or “fish hawk” as it is sometimes called, has rebounded nicely.

One pair has been spotted hard at work building a nest of sticks, twigs and turf on a cell tower off Hwy. 20, just east of Trammel Road, not too far from Lake Lanier.

Experts at the Georgia Department of Natural Resources weren’t surprised to learn the raptors were setting up house on a cell tower in Forsyth.

According to Jim Ozier, a DNR wildlife biologist, the species is “in pretty good shape right now, and with the lake nearby and good nesting sites, osprey should be doing fine for the foreseeable future.”

According to the Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds, the osprey is “well adapted for capturing fish which comprise its entire diet.”

“The osprey hovers until a fish nears the surface, then it plunges feet first into the water, grasping the fish in its talons,” the guide continues.

Once it has made a catch, the osprey orients the fish so that it is head first to its direction of flight, thus reducing drag and using less energy to fly, according to the guide.

Ozier said once nest building is complete, the female will lay her eggs, usually in a clutch of three. After about 30 days, the chicks will hatch. 

Then both parents will care for the hatchlings for another eight to 10 weeks before they fledge.

At that point, they will begin scouting their home territory and learn the lessons they’ll need for survival.