When did the Osprey last breed in Switzerland?

Last Osprey nest in Switzerland
Last known Osprey eyrie in Switzerland, photographed 16 April 1915 at Ellikon am Rhine ZH in a Scots Pine Pinus sylvestris. Reproduced from Stemmler (1932).

Ospreys in Switzerland were recorded as breeding for the last time along the Rhine River in 1914, with the last observation of a territorial male observed in 1915 or possibly even in 1919. Since this time Ospreys are only seen in Switzerland during migration periods in the spring and fall, with occasional visits during the summer.

In his book Die Adler der Schweiz (1932), Carl Stemmler has provided invaluable information on the last breeding Ospreys in Switzerland. He recounts how, on April 15, 1911, a young man named Merk brought him a dead female Osprey that he had wounded with buckshot (and afterwards tried finishing her off with a Swiss Army knife, and ended up strangling her with a rope)! He had been planning on taking the bird to the taxidermist to get it stuffed. After some discussion, he agreed to sell the bird to Stemmler as well as show him the nest where he had killed the bird, which was located in Ellikon am Rhein (canton of Zurich). The lad explained how he and a friend had stolen the eggs at night, because they knew that if they had waited, three other lads were getting ready to steal the eggs the following morning. Stemmler bought the bird from him for 15 francs and the three eggs for 5 francs. The young man told him that he killed an Osprey each year to sell to the local taxidermist. After this encounter, Stemmler recounted that Merk then emigrated to Texas!

Stemmler returned to the forest of Ellikon on  April 16, 1915, accompanied by Mr. Rappold, a forest guard, who showed him an Osprey eyrie where, according to him, a pair of Osprey had nested for the last two years. However, in the spring of 1915, only the male was present at the site and the nest was empty.

While the last documented proof of an Osprey nesting in Switzerland dates from 1911, the observations made by Forest Guard Rappold indicate that the species still bred in 1913 and 1914. The female that Stemmler bought was stuffed and can be seen at the Stemmler Museum in Schauffausen.

Stemmler also reported that a male Osprey coming from Ossingen (in the canton of Zürich, about 10 km east of Ellikon) had been shot near Lottsteten (just across the border in Germany) in April 1919.