18. Osprey Nesting Platform

On your way back toward the parking area and the Discovery House, look to your right and you’ll see a large electric pole with a platform on top in the middle of the field. This is a man-made osprey nesting platform.

The pole was donated to the Museum by Palmetto Electric and Santee Cooper Cooperative, and installed in the spring of 2014. Ospreys are quite common in South Carolina’s coastal ecosystems. These large birds can have a wingspan of 6 feet. Ospreys are fishing eagles that nest on Hilton Head Island and other coastal areas. They prefer to nest in exposed and man-made platforms close to the water but away from trees. The proximity to water guarantees the birds a reliable source of food, and the distance from trees prevents egg predators such as snakes and raccoons from climbing into the nest.

Although abundant today, Ospreys were scarce in the past, and at one point were listed on the endangered species list. Ospreys were badly affected by the use of the insecticide commonly known as DDT. The use of DDT in agricultural fields, led to a decrease in the populations of many birds of prey like Ospreys, Bald Eagles, Peregrine Falcons and many others. DDT does not break down in animals that ingest it, but it accumulates, meaning that birds of prey that ingest a lot of animals accumulate a lot of DDT. The chemical makes it difficult for birds to absorb calcium, ending with the birds laying eggs with very thin shells that will shatter during the incubation period.

Most uses of DDT were banned in the United States in 1974 and later worldwide. Since then many birds of prey such as Osprey and Bald Eagles had recovered and are once more a part of the Lowcountry environment.