These Nesting Instincts Are for the Birds

Associated Press

The Birdman of Buzzard’s Bay is busy building osprey nests at the southeastern tip of Massachusetts.

The brown-and-white hawks were endangered in the 1960s by the DDT-contaminated fish they ate, and ospreys nesting at Round Hill Point near Buzzard’s Bay now face another modern menace: condominiums.

Gilbert Fernandez of New Bedford builds nests for the graceful birds.

‘They Tell Me Where’

“I don’t put the nests where I want to,” Fernandez said. “I put them where ospreys are active or hanging around. They tell me where they want them.”


Fernandez has won cooperation from Commonwealth Electric Co., which has placed starter nests of twigs and seaweed constructed by Fernandez on top of some of its utility poles at Round Hill Point.

Fernandez, a state conservation commissioner who has been trying to save the osprey for two decades, has built at least 65 nests in Dartmouth and Westport, most of them on the Westport River.

“They’re model birds,” Fernandez said. “They’re not fighters. They’re very peaceful. They don’t compete for food. If one catches a fish, another doesn’t try to take it away. They are good providers. They take care of the poor widows. All these reasons are why I love them.”

Fernandez said he has been searching for new nesting locations at Round Hill Point since condominium construction began there about four years ago, possibly disrupting the osprey way of life.

Baby Tangled in Line

At times, his work has failed. He recently found a baby osprey in one of his nests with a plastic six-pack holder around its neck. Another baby osprey tumbled out of the nest and died trying to free itself from fishing line that was left on a nearby beach.

It didn’t take female ospreys long to determine not to use the nest to give birth. No ospreys were born there this year.


Fernandez said he and his wife, Josephine, began watching birds about 25 years ago.

“It is the only hawk that lives on fish, and it has to be fresh fish,” he said. “The eagle will eat dead fish. The osprey won’t even pick up a fish it’s dropped.