British charity uses fake birds to lure ospreys

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There's no place like home, even if it is a fake one -- at least that's what a British wildlife charity hopes ospreys will think when they come across man-made nests complete with plastic birds.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) said Friday that the "low cost experiment" in Dorset, southern England, was an attempt to get the birds to stay and breed in an area where they would likely thrive.

After spending the winter in Africa, ospreys stop off in Dorset on their way to Scotland, their current stronghold.

Five nests have already been built in trees at the Arne reserve and two have been put up at another site in Poole Harbour, while two life-sized polystyrene ospreys have been added to complete the look of a model home.

Ospreys are known to be extremely faithful to their previous nesting sites, so RSPB hopes that its fake birds will fool the real ones into thinking that ospreys have bred on the site before.

"This is a really exciting experiment and one that has worked at other locations in Europe so we're hopeful that before long we might just have some breeding ospreys of our own," said Mark Singleton, visitor manager at the Arne reserve.

The RSPB believes having ospreys in southern England would be "major boost to the species" as there are better food sources there than in Scotland.

Ospreys, once extinct in Britain for more than four decades, returned to breed in the Scottish Highlands in the 1950s.

They are adapted to catching fish, which according to the RSPB makes the Dorset coastline "a perfect range for searching for food."

"If we did get ospreys breeding at Arne, it would be an amazing conservation success story," added Singleton.

© 2010 AFP

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