Ospreys can be found on every continent except for Antarctica.
They are a migratory bird which breed in the North in the summer
and head south for the winter. Our birds typically arrive the
second week in March, stay for the summer and are gone by the
first week in September.
One thing that puzzled us last year while watching the
ospreys was that occasionally we would see the adults skim
the water as though they were fishing, yet come up empty
and fly back to the nest. As it turns out, they were merely
getting water on their claws and the feathers directly above
their talons and taking it back to the chicks in the nest.
During the hot summer months before the young are able to
fly and are confined to the nest in the blazing sun, this
skimming method by the parents is how water is delivered to
the nest. Apparently ospreys cannot live on fish alone.
Both parents help to incubate the eggs which will hatch about 4 to 5 weeks after appearing in the
nest. The eggs will hatch in the order they were laid giving one chick the older sibling status. Chicks
will fledge about 55 days after hatching and will use the nest as home base until they are ready to
migrate in early September. North American ospreys migrate to South America, although some may
stay in southern states such as California and Florida.
Usually an osprey lays two to three eggs, although quite
often one of the eggs never hatches. We have always had
three eggs, which have consistently resulted in only two
chicks. The third egg always seems to mysteriously
disappear soon after the first two eggs hatch. We have
never seen what exactly happens to this egg, although
everyone has his own theory.
Ospreys build their nests consisting of sticks, sod and grass on the tops of telephone poles, channel
makers and similar structures, where they have easy access to fishing. Strategically placed artificial
platforms are also popular for attracting nesting pairs, which were endangered after chemical pollutants
in the 1950's thinned eggshells diminishing reproduction. Our ospreys have built their nest using an old
wagon wheel, which was put up for them years ago, as a frame. Every year they must clean up and
remodel and you will notice that they make additions and changes to the nest in various stages of egg
and chick life.
The ospreys' diet consists almost exclusively of fish, which they catch
with their unique barbed talons by diving feet first into the water from
as far as 100 feet in the air. For this reason they nest near water
sources such as rivers, lakes, ponds and coastal waterways. No wonder
they love the Eastern Shore!
With an average length of 22- 25 inches and an average wingspan of 4.5 - 6 feet, ospreys are one of
the largest birds of prey in North America. Females are larger than males, with a slightly larger
wingspan. Ospreys have a dark back and wings, with a white breast, belly and head. They also have a
distinctive black eye stripe. Juvenile ospreys look similar to adults but have whitish scaling on their back
feathers. You will be able to easily differentiate between adults and juveniles as you watch the young
ones hatch and grow.
Welcome to our osprey nest on the waters of Maryland's Eastern
Shore. As ospreys tend to return to the same nest year after year, we
are certain that our two birds are repeat guests. We actually
recognize the markings on their heads; if you look closely you may be
able to differentiate and then start to "recognize" them as well.
All About Ospreys