LMU Osprey Nest Offers Fish-Eating Hawks a Home Near the Ballona Wetlands

The platform is perched on a utility pole at the edge of Loyola Marymount University’s Westchester campus. It has the makings of a great nest, with sticks and branches and sweeping views of the Ballona Wetlands. Will a family of ospreys soon call it home?

To the surprise and excitement of students from nearby Playa Vista Elementary – home of the Ospreys – one of the birds may have been checking out the perch as the university today dedicated its new osprey nesting pole. Drawing oohs and ahhs, an osprey flew over the crowd of students, LMU community members and environmentalists gathered for the blufftop ceremony.

The event included blessings from Randall Roche, S.J., director of LMU’s Center for Ignatian Spirituality, and Robert Dorame, tribal chair of the Gabrielino-Tongva Indians of California; and remarks from President’s Professor of Biology Eric Strauss of the Center for Urban Resilience.

“It will be a momentous event to see ospreys nesting on our platform, because having this important avian predator in Ballona is a major step in the ecological recovery of the wetlands,” said Strauss, executive director of CURes. “This nesting pole will provide important research opportunities for our students, and it becomes part of an international network of platforms placed in coastal wetland ecosystems.”

The 60-foot-high nesting pole sits just east of the Tongva Memorial, and beneath a webcam that will provide live footage of nesting birds. It was created through a partnership with LMU CURes, Southern California Edison and the nonprofit Gottlieb Foundation. SCE crews, working with LMU’s Facilities Management division, installed the pole and platform over three days in July.

Ospreys are large hawks with long, narrow wings and legs that build nests in the open on poles and dead trees, often over water. Today the birds are spotted around Ballona, but they are not currently breeding and nesting in the state-owned habitat, Strauss said. Their populations were decimated by pesticide use and are now recovering nationwide.

Biologists hope that, in time, the fish-eating hawks will find the nest box and use it as a nursery. LMU student teams would be tasked with maintaining the area surrounding the pole and documenting what they are fishing and eating.

Strauss gave the students a short lesson in osprey behavior during the dedication event.

The wetlands are the most exciting place for children of any age to learn,” said Dorame, whose ancestors lived in the Tongva village of Guaspita, which is now known as Playa Vista. Dorame recalls his first visit to the Ballona Wetlands in 1956, when he was six.

“My father pointed out the raptors when they flew over this area, telling me these birds kept nature in balance,” Dorame said. “Our tribe is eager to see more ospreys make use of the wetlands, and the nesting platform is the invitation to these majestic birds.”

It wouldn’t be the first time that SCE welcomed the birds to one of its utility poles. Last year, the company built a wooden platform atop an existing Huntington Beach pole after strong winds knocked an osprey nest to the ground.