The International Osprey Foundation

Dedicated to the preservation of the Osprey

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission published an action plan in 2018 which sets out clearly what actions are needed to preserve the Non migratory Osprey in Monroe County. Their Executive summary in that action plan states:-

'While actions in this plan focus on the specific threats and needs of non-migratory Ospreys in Monroe and surrounding counties, they can be implemented in other areas of the state where Ospreys occur and potentially benefit individuals in those areas as well'

The International Osprey Foundation team are keen to use this action plan as a key to helping inform us and to guide our actions and the support we provide to protect and preserve Ospreys worldwide, and encourage working with like minded agencies and groups to achieve our goals.


Our Mission statement

"The International Osprey Foundation was founded on Sanibel Island, Florida in 1983. Its founding principle is the protection and preservation of Ospreys worldwide. To that end, TIOF strives to educate and offer research grants internationally on raptor-related projects. TIOF also recruits and coordinates teams of volunteers who build and maintain osprey nesting platforms. Additional volunteers monitor osprey nests locally during breeding season and provide research data to Osprey Watch, a central database for Osprey research."
Our 2021 TIOF newsletter has just been published and you can open or download it here
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Arriving ospreys love TIOF platforms.

“If We Build It, They Will Come!” Kathryn Brintnall (Feb 2021)

This familiar quote from the movie, FIELD OF DREAMS…. “If we build it, they will come,” is just what the board of The International Osprey Foundation (TIOF) is counting on. While it is not the crack of the bat associated with the return of baseball and spring training that they are anxiously awaiting, a much different arrival is anticipated just the same.

All winter, TIOF construction teams have been very busy doing the ‘building” referred to in that quote. They have been restoring nesting platforms in poor condition and installing new ones all over our area. Why? Because we know that if we build it, they will come. The ospreys will come back to make their homes among us. And today, we are happy to report that they are here!! For all of us on the islands of Sanibel, Captiva, and Pine Island, as well as our surrounding mainland water communities, this is an exciting time of year! Not just because of the arrival of our migrating “snowbirds” and the usually busy

social calendar, but because it is nesting season for our area’s favorite raptor, the Osprey (sometimes called the Fish Hawk). All over this part of Southwest Florida, migrating ospreys are returning to join the resident osprey population. The hunt is on to find or reestablish a home for the season. Ospreys are birds that exhibit “nest fidelity.” A mated pair will return to the same nest every year unless weather or a predator has destroyed the nest, or if one or both of the birds has perished in the off season. What makes a good home for an osprey? Ospreys like to have a “room with a view.” (Don’t we all?) A 360 degree view is preferred. You will see their nests high up in tall trees or snags, as well as on platforms, and sometimes even utility poles. With over 70 active nests on Sanibel and Captiva alone, there are plenty of opportunities to see these birds in action. Nests can be found out in the bayous, lakes and canals, as well as in parking lots, ball fields and neighborhoods. Because osprey are living among us, and are very tolerant of human behavior, you don’t have to be a birdwatcher to observe them. Even the most casual of observers can enjoy quite a show.

First to arrive are the male birds, followed not long afterward by the females. Home improvement is their first priority. Quite a bit of time and energy is spent restoring the nest before mating and settling down to incubate the eggs and raise young. The male birds will snag mosses, seaweed and branches, large and small, to bring back to the nest. Strange human-made objects have also been observed in osprey nests. Yes, a milk crate, a traffic cone, a Barbie doll, and unfortunately those rings from beverage cans and monofilament fishing-line have all been documented in active osprey nests. While not all these unnatural objects pose an imminent danger to the osprey, we all have a responsibility to make sure these types of items are disposed of responsibly so our neighbors, the osprey, do not get injured. While the female has been known to refuse an offering now and then, both birds are very serious about preparing a home for their new family.

Osprey nests are enhanced and rebuilt every year. While nests on platforms tend to be smaller than nests in trees and natural snags, a well-established nest that has been added to year after year can be over 5 feet in diameter and can weigh up to 300 pounds. A human being could sit quite comfortably inside it! While not on the federal endangered species list, osprey are considered a species of special concern here in Florida. By law, once incubation is observed, the nest should not be tampered with or removed from its location until the end of nesting season, when the chicks have fledged and learned to fish on their own.

To keep an eye on all of this activity, The International Osprey Foundation kicks into high gear. As a part of their mission to preserve the osprey species, teams of TIOF nest monitors are out observing and documenting nest activity from January until Memorial Day. By car, bicycle or kayak, the volunteer monitors visit the nests every two weeks (or sometimes more frequently after chicks are observed), during the nesting season. The observations are collected and published by The International Osprey Foundation at the end of the season. The data from these citizen scientists will also be posted on an international database called Osprey Watch. Osprey watchers all over the world are doing the same thing at this time of year and into the summer months in cooler climates. With improved water quality, our Osprey nesting season is off to a strong start so far this year on the islands and nearby local communities. TIOF hopes that your time here on the island this spring will include some osprey watching, and that if you are a snowbird, you will also look for them up north when you return home a bit later in the year. Tell all your friends about the amazing fish hawk called the Osprey.

Remember, we all have an important role to play in the continuing success of the osprey species. If you see an injured bird or observe an accident involving an osprey, please contact the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife, CROW, at 239-472-3644, here on the island or your local wildlife rescue hotline.

For other questions, or to obtain more information about Ospreys, including how to join TIOF visit our website at

By: Kathryn Brintnall Board Member, TIOF

The International Osprey Foundation Sanibel

January 20, 2021

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From left: Eugenio Hernandez and Carlos Hernandez of Tree Trimming Doctor, with their crew

SANIBEL, January 20, 2021 - As another osprey nesting season gets under way, The International Osprey Foundation (TIOF) has been making sure the nest sites of these raptors on Sanibel and Captiva are safe and secure.
In the past 12 months, TIOF replaced 14 platforms, said Susan Tucker, president. And most of them are already occupied. Jim Columbo, a Sanibel resident,  builds the osprey platforms and has incorporated improvements to increase their durability. "All platforms are now being marked with the builder's name (Columbo) and the year built for our records," she added.
Tucker also commended Carlos Hernandez, of Tree Trimming Doctor, for continuing to donate his time, crew and equipment. He has been installing TIOF platforms for 22 years.
The TIOF board of directors thanks nest monitors, homeowners, visitors and the Sanibel Department of Natural Resources for reporting nests that were in need of maintenance.
Sanibel and Captiva have more than 70 active nests, which are monitored January through May by groups of nest monitor volunteers.
She suggests that anyone who sees an osprey in distress or needing medical attention call CROW (Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife) at 472-3644.
TIOF can be reached by email at

Submitted by Anne Mitchell,



Jan 11, 2021

The International Osprey Foundation Sanibel

Belarus team is latest recipient of Osprey Foundation Grant

Sanibel, January 9, 2021 -- Mexico, Spain, Brazil, Ghana, Belize, Argentina and the United States… what do these places have in common? Spanning the globe, ospreys (pandion Haliaetus) fly high in their skies and all have programs which have been awarded grants by The International Osprey Foundation(TIOF), based on Sanibel.
Integral to TIOF’s Mission to Preserve, Research, and Educate is the awarding of grants targeted for the welfare of ospreys in their global ecosystem. Over the past 30 years, grants have been directed to geographically and functionally diverse programs including nest fidelity and density impact on breeding productivity, pesticide exposure on reproduction, medical treatment of injured raptors, avian protection programs in partnership with utility companies, foraging ecology, raptor coastal migration and population surveys, and genetic analysis.

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Osprey chicks on a nest in Belarus

The foundation’s 2020 grant --  for $2034 -- was awarded to Denis Keitel and his team in Belarus for their research to identify and secure official protection status for nesting sites in the bogs and river valleys of the northern Belarus forests. Belarus is in eastern Europe.
Timely protection is essential to prevent logging in critical breeding areas, said Carol Smith, TIOF grants chair.
The program aligns well with osprey recovery and conservation plans developed by the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife. Key elements of the program include mapping four at-risk areas where osprey populations have been reported, determining population metrics and nest productivity, banding chicks and installing artificial nesting platforms where needed, and securing national protection status involving approval from four government agencies.
Despite these very uncertain times, the Belarus team reports significant progress with 50% of the target areas mapped, 28 nests identified, 26 chicks banded and 22 artificial platforms built. Most importantly, two key areas are well into the national protection approval process.

“TIOF will continue to follow the program’s progress and sincerely thanks current and past members for their membership donations making grants such as this possible,” said Susan Tucker, TIOF president. These grants show that TIOF is truly international in scope.

To volunteer as a nest watcher or to report a nest needing maintenance, email

(submitted by Anne Mitchell)

Also in Jan 2021 TIOF are cosponsoring the Ospreys program with our friends the Sanibel-Captiva Audubon Society

Due to COVID-19 restrictions
Are presenting a a series of Zoom Webinars
 2021 SanCap Audubon Speaker Series

Click here to go to their site

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Aika Billheimer preparing for a nest mapping trip

(photo by Dan Billheimer)


by Kathryn Brintnall, Board Member, The International Osprey Foundation

“Notebook and pen, check.”

“Water, check” “Smart-phone with map app, check” “TIOF uniform T-shirt, check.” “Put more air in my bike tire, check.”

“I’m ready,” called The International Osprey Foundation’s youngest volunteer to her dad as she prepared to help TIOF map all of the osprey nests on Sanibel and Captiva using GPS coordinates. Aika Billheimer is a sixth grader at The Sanibel School. Part of her social studies class requirement was a community service project. TIOF discovered this after a chance encounter with herat the Lighthouse Cafe. She needed a project, and TIOF needed help mapping osprey nests that were not yet located using GPS technology. It was a perfect fit.

TIOF board members Kathryn Brintnall and Jim Schnell met with Aika and her dad in November 2019 to discuss the requirements and timeline. Both parties were enthusiastic and the project was underway. Over the next six weeks, Aika and her dad traveled by boat and bike all over Sanibel and even up as far as Captiva and North Captiva. Taking careful notes, noting nest locations using GPS, and observing osprey nesting patterns. Aika logged over 15 hours for her service project. TIOF will enter her data into the Osprey Watch global database, used by Conservation and regulatory agencies such as Florida Fish and Wildlife to track population trends and inform environmental policy.

Aika also noted that although she catalogued 32 nests, there were not many osprey attending those nests in December. Her observations were more evidence Sanibel has two different populations of osprey, those that live in Florida year round, and those that migrate to South America, arriving back in Southwest Florida in the December through January timeframe.

Aika said she really loved her project because she got to be “out in nature and learn .about ospreys.” She notices them all the time now as she is out and about “on island.” Her favorite times were on her bike and her uncle’s boat checking out nests all over the islands. Aika also had some input for her peers who are more into sports or talking on their phones. “They could also get out into nature, and see how beautiful it is. It would be nice if we had an after-school nature Ccub, too,” she added. “Kids might enjoy taking a tour of some of the nests when there are birds there.”

Brintnall expressed her appreciation of Aika’s work to Charles (Chuck) Villardi, principal of The Sanibel School. She informed him that Aika made a significant contribution to TIOF.

Brintnall also remarked on how important it is that young people engage in meaningful projects that allow them to contribute to real environmental solutions and research at a young age. The collaboration between The Sanibel School and TIOF was just such an opportunity.

Villardi indicated that Aika’s service project was a perfect example of what made him so proud of “his kids,” and their involvement in the community.

TIOF President Susan Tucker said at a recent board meeting, “ We are hoping that a lot more young people will join with TIOF in its mission.”

The International Osprey Foundation’s mission is to preserve, educate the public, and research the lives of ospreys worldwide. Learn more at

PRESS RELEASE, January 13 2020

Rachel Rainbolt from CROW (Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife) told the crowd about the clinic's wildlife rescue program and talked especially about raptors, such as the Osprey. More than 40 people attended a volunteer meeting for nest monitors for The International Osprey Foundation (TIOF) on January 7 at The Community House, Sanibel.

The nesting season is under way and runs through May or June. Teams monitor more than 70 nests on Sanibel and others on Fort Myers Beach and Captiva. Keeping tabs on nest productivity is important as the osprey is an apex predator and an indicator of water/environmental quality.

James Schnell, TIOF treasurer, told the group about the ongoing nest maintenance program and what has been done and still needs to be done. Some 15 nest sites were reported as needing maintenance in the past year; 10 platforms were replaced in the past six months; 15 platforms have been made to a new design by volunteer Jim Columbo and replaced; and three sites will require a new pole as well as platform repair. Carlos Hernandez and his crew from Fort Myers have been donating their labor to install the new platforms, Schnell noted. Those unable to attend the meeting but who are interested in volunteering may contact Carol Smith, nest monitor coordinator, at 815-474-9281.

PR Contact Anne Mitchell, 239-233-0014.

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The TIOF board, James Schnell (back) and, from left, Carol Smith, Susan Tucker and Kathryn Brintnall"`

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Pictures from Osprey Nesting Box Installation and a thank you email for TIOF Jan 15 2020

"Ma'am, I am sending pictures of the nesting box installation that took place today. Ned Bruha came first thing this morning and did a wonderful job. I want to thank you and him both for making this happen for me. I cannot wait for the osprey to start building a nest again and this time it will have a stable platform on which to build. Thank you so much for you help with this wonderful project that I was not sure how to even get it started let alone completed and you helped me achieve that. Please thank Ned for me if and when you see him."

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PRESS RELEASE Nov 5th 2019

SANIBEL ISLAND, The International Osprey Foundation (TIOF) has a new teaching tool – an interactive scale model of an osprey platform.

“I could see that the children really connected with it and enjoyed putting sticks in it at BaileyFest,” said Susan Tucker, TIOF president.

Jim Columbo, who makes platforms for the Sanibel-based foundation to replace rotted or damaged ones, came up with the idea.

“I first got the idea of a scale model of an osprey platform when we were volunteering at the TIOF booth at 'Ding' Darling Days in October,” he said.

“I noticed right away that a lot of the other organization's booths at the event had interactive displays for people walking by, especially for children. I looked at the TIOF booth and all we had were newsletters and T-shirts. I heard someone mention it would be nice to have a model of an osprey platform to look at and thought right away it would be easy to make, especially after constructing 16 of the full scale platforms.”

He added, “The following Monday morning I went into my garage and found enough scrap pieces of wood to put together the model. I used a 1/8 scale and spent about two hours putting it together.” It was ready for its first outing, to Baileyfest October 27.

According to Tucker, “It is an interactive model with replicas of an adult osprey and chicks. There are fish in the water that the osprey can pick up with magnets and bring back to the nest that have chicks waiting. It is actually pretty cool!” The model platform even has a predator guard and a perch.

The display was created by Kathryn Brintnall, a TIOF board member.


From left, Jim Columbo, Susan Tucker and Merry Merryfiel, nest monitor team leader, with the model at BaileyFest.

The 1/8th scale model of the osprey platform, made by Jim Columbo, has all the features of an actual platform.

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Earlier news

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Jim Griffith June 2nd, 1935 - April 26, 2019

The International Osprey Foundation lost one of its champions on April 26 with the death of Past President Jim Griffith. He was an engineer by profession and a true environmentalist by nature.

Jim was also a volunteer for many causes and on many levels in Georgia and Sanibel including Boy Scouts, Rotary, and Sunday School. On Sanibel he was also president of the Sanibel-Captiva Audubon Society from 2010-19 and was also involved with CROW (Clinic for rehabilitation of wildlife), Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, the J.N. "Ding" Darling Wildlife Refuge and TIOF, of which he was president from 2013-19.

He diligently worked to repair Osprey platforms and built platforms as needed or requested.

Below are links to our annual Newsletters published April / May each year.

Bill Schawbel requested that his name appear with Judy Samelson on the TIOF Life Member list. While we have been able accommodate that request on the membership page on our website, the citation in the 2020 newsletter, cannot be edited at this time. Regrettably, the printing error of Bill's name which appears there, won't be able to be corrected in until the next newsletter is published. Bill and Judy's names will now appear jointly in the membership section of the website and in all future newsletters. The spelling of Bill's name will be corrected in the next newsletter as well. 

Osprey Foundation Newsletter 2021

Osprey Foundation Newsletter 2020

Osprey Foundation Newsletter 2019

Osprey Foundation Newsletter 2018

Osprey Foundation Newsletter 2017

Osprey Foundation Newsletter 2016

Osprey Foundation Newsletter 2015

Osprey Foundation Newsletter 2014

Osprey Foundation Newsletter 2013

Osprey Foundation Newsletter 2012

Osprey Foundation Newsletter 2011

Osprey Foundation Newsletter 2010

Osprey Foundation Newsletter 2009

Osprey nest removal Policy

Grants and donations

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