Ospreys Safe After Renesting Atop Billboard in Kissimmee

A family of Ospreys are reunited thanks to the collaborative effort of Center volunteers, billboard technicians, and a local fire station.

Ospreys in a nest on a metal platform. One looks at the camera while another eats a fish.
Along with restoring the nest, volunteers left the Ospreys with a tasty fish. Photo: John/Outfront Media

An Osprey family is back together in their nest atop a billboard in Osceola County after a collaborative rescue effort involving Audubon Center for Birds of Prey rescue volunteers, billboard technicians, and a local fire station.

Thunderstorms rolled through Central Florida on Tuesday, May 14. In the aftermath, an employee at a Kissimmee auto shop called the Center to report a nest that was knocked from its platform atop a billboard next to the shop. He reported one baby on the ground, one on the billboard catwalk, and a third wedged in between the two sides of the billboard. Volunteer rescue coordinator Maggie Haynes sprung into action sending one volunteer to the scene and calling OUTFRONT Media, the company that operates the billboard. Co-Coordinator Cheryl Merz directed a second volunteer to a local fire station.

Osprey populations rebounded after the pesticide DDT was banned in 1972, but the species continues to face threats. Because their diet is made up of fish, they are particularly susceptible to water quality issues, as well as entanglement in fishing line and other plastics. Ospreys usually nest on top of large trees, but they also readily nest on utility poles and other man-made structures.

Rescue volunteer Laney arrived on the scene and immediately retrieved the baby on the ground. A second volunteer, Noah, directed City of Kissimmee firefighters to the site, who then used their ladder truck to reach the billboard. While wasps swarmed, they retrieved the baby stranded on the catwalk, but saw no movement from the baby stuck in the billboard. The sun set with two of three babies rescued, and the effort was called off for the night. In the meantime, OUTFRONT Media operations manager Roy Milshtein returned Haynes’ call for help, and offered to have two of his technicians visit the site first thing the next morning to repair the platform and retrieve the third baby—whether it could still be saved or not.

A small feathered ball sits on a catwalk at the back of a billboard. It is a baby Osprey.
On the lower left in this image, sent to Haynes by the auto shop worker who reported the incident, the Osprey chick on the catwalk can be seen.

At first light, billboard technicians John and Edgar arrived on the scene with a bucket truck. At the same time, the auto shop next door called Haynes to report definite movement where the third baby remained between the two sides of the billboard. John got the baby safely to the ground and handed it off to Haynes, en route to the Center for Birds of Prey to join its siblings. With all babies rescued, technicians John and Edgar worked to secure the platform back to the top of the billboard, readying it for their return.

In the Center’s Raptor Trauma Clinic, two of the three siblings were cleared to be put back in the nest, but the one that had fallen to the ground had compound fractures and would not survive its injuries. As for the surviving siblings, the team had to move quickly to get them back in the nest—for pre-fledgling raptors, the safest place is in the nest, where their parents feed them and teach them to fly, but the longer they spend out of the nest, the less likely it is that they will successfully be returned.

By 1 p.m., less than 24 hours after the initial phone call, the two babies were back atop a newly-fortified nest platform. Less than an hour later, one of the Osprey parents was seen feeding the babies—a sure sign of a successful reunion.

“I can’t say enough good things about OUTFRONT Media and their response,” says Haynes. “They truly cared about the birds. Roy granted his team full authorization to do whatever was needed, and quickly.”

The Center for Birds of Prey relies on community partners to rescue more than 800 orphaned, injured, and ill raptors each year. We thank OUTFRONT Media, the Kissimmee Fire Department, and our team of rescue volunteers for their collaboration in bringing this family back together in a new, safer nest.

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