The Oregon Legislature voted Friday, July 7, to name the osprey as Oregon's official "state raptor."
The eye-catching bird of prey, which has a diet of primarily fish and often can be seen hunting at lakes and waterways, joins the western meadowlark — chosen in 1927, through a poll of children organized by the Oregon Audubon Society — as one of Oregon's state birds. The western meadowlark was redesignated as the "state songbird."
Senate Concurrent Resolution 18, which made the change, received late life in the legislative session after running into initial roadblocks. While it was approved by the Senate on a 24-5 vote in April, it appeared dead in the House of Representatives before it was tweaked to make the osprey the state raptor while preserving the western meadowlark as the state songbird, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported.
The resolution passed the House by a 43-17 vote on Friday, with a number of representatives from Portland's Westside suburbs — including Reps. Jeff Barker of Aloha, Ken Helm of Beaverton, Janeen Sollman of Hillsboro and Julie Parrish of West Linn — among those voting "no." The Senate concurred with the House on a 28-0 vote.
SCR 18 was carried in the Senate vote Friday by Sen. Ginny Burdick, who represents parts of Tigard and Southwest Portland, in her capacity as Senate majority leader.
The resolution was co-sponsored by Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward, who represents parts of Beaverton and Portland, and Sen. Fred Girod of Stayton.
Freshman Rep. Rich Vial, a Scholls legislator whose district also includes King City, Sherwood, Wilsonville and small pieces of Hillsboro and Tigard, was also involved on the House side, Steiner Hayward noted. She described herself, Girod and Vial as being among the more "avid birders" in the Oregon Legislature.
"We're the three that I know are the most engaged with it," she said.
Steiner Hayward said she was happy to co-sponsor the legislation when Girod pitched it to her, remarking, "I really love osprey, and I think they're a cool bird."
Asked about the changes to the resolution to split the "state bird" between the osprey and western meadowlark after the initial resolution, replacing the western meadowlark with the osprey, passed the Senate, Steiner Hayward quipped, "When stuff goes over to the House, sometimes interesting things happen."
She added, "I don't know why it (rose to) the level of meriting negotiations, but I'm glad it did, because I think the osprey deserves some recognition."
The bird of prey, Steiner Hayward noted, has had "an amazing comeback" in Oregon, as osprey populations plunged along with those of many other raptors due to the use of DDT as a pesticide in the 1950s and 1960s. Since the federal ban on DDT, the osprey has rebounded in Oregon and other states.
The Times reached out to city officials in Tigard, Tualatin and Durham about whether there are osprey nesting sites in those communities. Their answer: probably not, but osprey sightings in the area are not uncommon.
"I have seen ospreys in the Durham/Cook Park areas but have not seen an active nest," said one Durham resident, as reported by City Administrator Linda Tate.
Another told Tate, "I agree that it is possible to see them but their nests are quite obvious and I have not seen any."
Eva Kristofik, who works at the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge, told The Times there are no active osprey nests at that refuge, located near Sherwood. However, she said, there are active nests at the Wapato Lake National Wildlife Refuge near Gaston.
Editor's note: This story has been updated with background information on the osprey and quotes from state Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward.
By Mark Miller
Assistant Editor, The Times