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Don't Worry About The McClugage Ospreys As Bridge Demolition Looms, Bird Expert Says

Osprey photo courtesy Pete Fanner

When the eastbound McClugage Bridge span comes down next year, the ospreys that nest there will need to find a new place to raise their young— at least temporarily.

For at least the past three years, osprey have favored a spot on the bridge's upper steel structure as the ideal spot to raise a family.

Pete Fanner of the Peoria Audubon Society said while ospreys are less common than bald eagles around central Illinois, he's not surprised by the spot they chose.

"They like to use manmade structures for nests," Fanner said. "So you will often see their nests, a big group of twigs and branches and whatnot, on bridges like this, like the McClugage."

In a statement, the Illinois Department of Transportation said it has worked in conjunction with the Illinois Department of Resources after finding out about the birds in 2019.

The department will take down the aging bridge span late next year, when the nest is empty. Whether the osprey will come back to the new bridge, however, is unknown.

"They'll find another spot, whether it's the new bridge span or something else," Fanner said. "They'll find another spot, I'm pretty sure."

In some instances, Fanner said the birds are even known to build nests on some of the larger buoys floating on rivers.

Fanner gave kudos to IDOT for avoiding disruption to the ospreys to the greatest extent possible.

Fanner said IDOT could encourage the birds to return to the new bridge by constructing a nesting platform, similar to other spots along the Illinois River, such as the Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge in Havana.

"It's a good thing to have these osprey in the area, because they are fish-eating," Fanner said. "And there are, as you know, some invasive fish in the river."

The new eastbound McClugage Bridge span is slated to open in 2023, following completion of the $167 million project. The bridge will feature a new mult-iuse path to allow bicyclists and pedestrians to safely cross the river.

Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.