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Bird Photo Gallery: Osprey Nest
In our sleepy little community in Central Oregon, we have several nesting pairs of ospreys. One of our pairs has built their nest atop a light pole at the Crook County Fairgrounds and while attending the horse races several weeks ago, I saw them for the first time.
This week, amidst the commotion of the annual county fair, I had the opportunity to photograph them as they fed their chicks. The rumor is that there are 3 chicks in this particular nest. You can barely see the head of a chick being fed in several of the pictures.
Ospreys are unique raptors in that their diet is primarily only live fish. They dive from heights of 30-100 feet to catch their food. Watch the video for a "bird's eye" view of their spectacular diving ability.
I'm not exactly sure what all the flapping maneuvers and then resettling movements I photographed were all about. I've read that birds regurgitate their food to feed to their chicks but I'm not sure if that's what this particular osprey was doing or not.
Regardless, ospreys are amazing birds to watch whether they're diving for a fresh catch, soaring against a cloudless blue sky or feeding their young.
Where Osprey Live and Fish in Prineville
Facts About Ospreys
- Ospreys are migratory birds--they usually winter in Mexico and/or South America
- The osprey diet consists mostly of fresh fish unlike other raptors who feast on snakes, voles, etc.
- Ospreys have a unique smell to them because of the oil on their feathers
- The osprey mates for life and returns to the same nest year after year
- Osprey will nest in communities whereas other raptors such as eagles maintain at least a 1-mile radius between nests
- Usually at 3 years old, the young osprey will mate and start a nest of their own
- Osprey populations declined for many years until the banning of pesticides rejuvenated their numbers
- Groups like Oregon Wild restore and preserve the osprey's habitat by building nesting platforms and erecting structures resembling old snags to encourage nesting
- To prevent wind drag, the osprey carries its catch with its body parallel to the bird's (see photo)
- An eagle can "spook" osprey into releasing their catch mid air claiming the fish for its own
- Unlike some of the other larger raptors, osprey have a somewhat awkward flying pattern but they are gold medalists when it comes to the dive
- They can live to 30 years old in the wild
- They are sometimes called the fish hawk
How Osprey Get Their Food
The osprey only dives about 3 feet below the water's surface but they dive from heights of 30-100 feet to get it.
It's estimated that an osprey only has to hunt for about 12 minutes or so before snagging a meal. They're also successful about 70% of the time in making the catch.
They have unusual claws with an extra part of the toe that other raptors do not have. It's thought that this is what enables them to keep their firm hold on the fish.
They usually fish in shallow water where fish are easily seen though if necessary, they dive for fish swimming in schools close to the surface in deeper waters.
Their prey usually is about 13-16 inches long and fish that weigh less than a pound up to several pounds.
They carry the fish in their talons with the head facing the same direction as their own to cut down on wind drag.
Differences Between Osprey and Bald Eagles
The osprey is oftentimes confused with the bald eagle. The osprey is smaller than the bald eagle.
The entire underbelly of the osprey is white while the only white on a bald eagle is the tail and the head.
The osprey has a distinctive black stripe on the side of his or her head and the bald eagle's head is pure white with no markings.
Ospreys build their nests out in the open while bald eagles do not. The osprey is adapted to building their nests atop anything that is flat and above the ground such as utility poles, light poles, etc. The other pair that is nesting a few miles further west from the pair photographed above have their nest atop a light pole at the baseball field.
Osprey nests are very flat and not as heavy as bald eagle nests. However, as ospreys return to their nests every year, the nests do grow in size.
Osprey as an Endangered Species
Thanks to the banning of DDT and other pesticides, the numbers for ospreys look better. These magnificent birds can be seen on every continent in the world except Antarctica.
Unfortunately, their greatest enemy is human. With urban sprawl, even though the osprey is adept at nesting and coexisting with people, they run the risk of diminishing in numbers again due to issues like pollution.
When they fish in unclean waters, the concentration of the pollutant is magnified because the larger fish eat smaller fish and the percentage of the toxicity increases proportionately.
It's also estimated that 10% of osprey chicks die each year due to baling wire mishaps. Ospreys build their nests from mostly large sticks but after the nest's shape is formed, they add to the nest with moss, leaves, string, etc. As you can see in the pictures above, there's some red fluffy material that's part of this nest as well as something that looks suspiciously like hose material. The nesting ospreys pick up baling wire and use it to add to their nests but it can be a death trap for adults as well as chicks. If their unusual talons get tangled in it, they sometimes can't get loose and die.
The osprey will also nest on power lines and wires and electrocution is not uncommon.
Osprey usually lay roughly 3 eggs which do not hatch all at the same time. They can hatch as many as 5 days apart. The most aggressive feeders will survive.
A cautious eye on the environment is needed to help preserve these beautiful birds of prey. They are truly one of nature's most captivating birds.