Osprey Babies in the Nest

 

If you are near the coast or a river you will have recently noticed osprey nests with the adults flying around and making a lot of noise. In some cases you cannot see babies in the nest because it is so high, but today while on Don Pedro Island I found a very visible osprey family on a nest in a Norfolk Island Pine. On islands many successful nests are built in the tops of tall Norfolk Island pines, an exotic but relatively non-invasive tree that is very resistant to wind storms. The broad tops are ideal for anchoring the large stick nests of ospreys. Australian pines in contrast are usually damaging to coastal ecology and prone to wind-throw during hurricanes and should be removed.

This nest is shown with Mom osprey and two adorable babies who need to be fed a lot of fish. Ospreys are quite unusual among raptors in that they feed entirely on fish, a very specialized diet that requires specific morphology (very large feet and claws) and behavior in which the bird dives feet first into the water and grabs a fish. Here an osprey is shown with a sizeable sea trout. Some fishermen might complain that ospreys are stealing their own catch, but ospreys eat many types of fish and are certainly entitled by their status as natural predators to as many fish as they can eat.

So enjoy our many ospreys and watch the babies as they mature and take flight for the first time. Retain or plant tall trees such as Norfolk Island pines on the coast to enable ospreys to continue to breed successfully, despite the rapid human development of the coastal land beneath their nests.

Bill Dunson

About Bill Dunson

Bill Dunson, born in rural Georgia, skipped 12th grade and went directly to Yale. Bill subsequent-ly received a PhD in Zoology from the University of Michigan, studying softshell turtles. Bill is Professor Emeritus of Pennsylvania State University thanks to a career spent entirely at that institution, teaching and doing research on the physio-logical ecology and ecotoxiciology of reptiles, amphibians and fish. Always curious about nature, Bill has dedicated his life to learning and sharing his knowledge with others. He has served on many advisory boards here in Southwest Florida to preserve the water that gives life to our region.

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