Wildlife Biologist says there's an osprey 'soap opera' in Missoula

Iris and Louis the osprey in Hellgate Canyon. Photo Credit: Montana Osprey Project.

MISSOLA - She is a local Montana celebrity, and one of the best mothers in the Treasure State according to a Missoula wildlife biologist. Iris the Osprey has fledged over 40 chicks in the last two decades while living in Missoula.

But Dr. Erick Greene a wildlife biologist and professor at the University of Montana says there's a love triangle going on that's bring some serious bird drama to the Hellgate Canyon. 

"Every year it's a soap opera, this year it's especially exciting and interesting," Greene said. 

Greene has seen almost everything in his time studying Iris who nests at Hellgate Canyon, but this year, a plot line straight out of a week day soap opera is happening in Hellgate Canyon. 

"Her challenges are that her mate, Louis, is spending time at two nests. He mated with her quite a bit earlier, he's now spending most of his time down at the osprey nest at the baseball field," Greene said. 

There isn't much research between male osprey spending time with two ladies. 

"We don't know how much it happens that a male will try to be at two nests at once. So we don't too much about it and we don't know how this will work out. So that's the soap opera that's going on for iris this year," Greene said. 

Louis may have been two timing last year, but Greene isn't sure. This year, he's been able to piece together this bird saga with the help of one local photographer. 

"I've been chasing the osprey around the river banks for three years now," Wildlife Photographer Louis Matteau said. 

Matteau says he's been photographing the osprey around town to help Dr. Green. But once he heard about two-timing Louis it caught his attention.

"Then when I seen the following [of the Missoula Osprey Facebook page], and the drama this year and the things going on, it peaked my interest," Matteau said. 

Greene says Iris currently has two eggs she's incubating. But without the help of her male partner, she's working twice as hard. 

"Iris is kinda being a single mom right now, she's having to do all the incubation herself," Greene said. 

If any bird can raise a chick on its own, it's Iris. She is flying above the drama, and staying Montana tough. 

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