Sunday, May 3, 2015

An Osprey's Life

Male and female Osprey do not migrate together so mated pairs in all likelihood do not see each other for several months while they are in warmer climes for the winter. It isn't like they can say, "I'll see you in Argentina later this month." In other words, I would guess they do not winter in the same location. What is amazing — at least to me — is that they re-establish their bonded relationship upon their return to the same location they left months before and immediately set about raising the next generation.

While Osprey, like many other species, return very close to the same day every year, there is a little variance in the date. Still, their punctuality is another astonishing fact. Navigating all that distance, confronting unexpected circumstances and the vagaries of spring weather, and still arriving "on time" is truly remarkable. What I would personally be highly interested in seeing is the first moment of reunion between two long-time mates. I wonder, are they ecstatic to see each other? Is there visible evidence of their excitement after months of separation?

The Latin name for the Osprey is "Pandion haliaetus." It is the exclusive member of the species, there being no other bird quite like it. In the binomial system of identification created by Carl Linnaeus, the second name, in this case "haliaetus," is descriptive of the animal. Haliaetus means sea eagle. They are superbly suited for catching fish.

While their offspring have an innate ability to also catch fish, from my observations, there is also some training by example. Believe it or not, this is a chick no more than a few months old. He has not yet mastered the art of catching fish and is excited to see his parent returning with a fish.

The chick returned to the nest box in which it was born and his father set down with a striped bass for the baby to eat. I watched these chicks from the time they were born until the parents left in the fall last year. There were three chicks. What concerned me was that I never saw any of the three successfully catch a fish on their own prior to the parent's leaving. And then, one day, they too were gone (migration) and I will never know whether they learned to survive on their own.

Osprey and Bald Eagles do not get along. Period. After it is built, eagles will steal an Osprey nest if they can. Given half a chance, they would kill and eat Osprey young. They attempt to unnerve Osprey into dropping their catch by chasing them around the skies. And, sometimes, they simply go after each other as these two were doing recently for nothing more than animosity.

We might think birds have a fairly easy life, but it is a "bird eat bird" world out there and there are no guarantees.

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