Posted: Jun 18, 2012 1:02 PM by Dennis Bragg - KPAX News
Updated: Jun 19, 2012 10:01 AM
LOLO- University of Montana researchers say the prognosis doesn't look good for those osprey chicks at a Lolo ranch who've become an Internet sensation over the past few weeks.
The nesting Osprey, dubbed "Ozzie and Harriet", became stars of their own webcam placed on their nest at Dunrovin Ranch as a joint research project by U.M. and Cornell University. At the beginning of June, anticipation was building that the osprey's eggs were about to hatch, with students, bird lovers and everyday people watching with curiosity.
But there's still been no signs of the eggs hatching. U.M. researchers say they are "still crossing their fingers" but "losing hope." Dr. Erick Greene tells us the normal incubation period for osprey eggs is 36-to-42 days, and now that it's well beyond 42 days it doesn't look like the eggs will hatch.
Greene says the development is a "huge disappointment" and he's not sure why the birds haven't hatched. He says one possible reason is mercury poisoning, which causes about half of all osprey eggs to fail in areas with mercury contamination. The second possibility is that the adult osprey may have an age related problem with their reproduction. It's believed both of the osprey are older birds.
He says the recent cold weather wasn't a factor because the osprey have a "brood patch" on their underside which allows for very direct contact between their skin and the eggs to keep them warm.
Plans call for leaving the eggs where they are until the birds eventually abandon them. Then Greene says they'll probably recover the eggs to study what happened.
On a more positive note, Greene says three eggs in the other osprey nest near the windmill at the entrance to Hellgate Canyon are doing very well and should hatch toward the end of the week. That nest also features and online camera.
Dunrovin Ranch owner SuzAnne Miller says they'll continue to operate the camera and observe how the birds cope with the loss of their eggs.