Osprey Facts and Photos

Some years ago volunteers from the WLCT put up an osprey platform at  Jacob’s Point. Since its inception it has been extremely successful, attracting a pair of birds, most likely the same pair, year after year. This year the nest “fledged” two chicks. A panel with information on osprey is located on the East Bay Bike Path.  More information is provided below courtesy of the WLCT Board member Finn Brudevold who observes the platform for the Audubon Society of RI.

The osprey is a large hawk having white undersides and a crook in its narrow wings. Adults are dark brown above with brownish-black marks on the wings and brown speckling on the breast. The head is white with a dark brown crown and  brown streak down the cheek. The female is typically larger than the male. At 18 months, osprey achieve their full adult plumage. Juvenile osprey resemble the adults, but have buff-tipped feathers on the back of their upper body, giving them a speckled appearance. As juvenile osprey mature, their eye color changes from brown to yellow.

Osprey feed primarily on live fish, which they catch from the water by using their long, hooked talons. When carrying their prey back to the nest, osprey will arrange the fish so that it is facing upright, head forward, to minimize drag. Occasionally, an osprey will catch and eat a snake, eel, or even a frog.

They make large nests made of mostly sticks and rubbish. Osprey construct their nests atop dead trees, power poles,on man-made nesting platforms, and sometimes on buoys, chimneys, or other structures. WLCT has been involved with building/maintaining half a dozen platforms. One is prominent in the middle of the Jacob’s Point marsh.

Ospreys in the Northeast migrate, staying here in the summers and in Central/South America in the winter. They return the end of March. They then build (or rebuild) nests, mate, and then lay one to four eggs, usually three, in mid-April. The female incubates them for a good month and hatching takes place in late May. They fiercely protect their nest. About fifty days after hatching, young osprey “fledge” (leave the nest), around mid-July. The young remain with their parents for the rest of the summer learning how to fish on their own. And then in mid-September they all head south, one by one. 

The adults return (usually to the same nest) in the spring. The young remain at their wintering grounds for two to three years until they return north to make their first attempt at breeding. Less than half survive this initial cycle. It is amazing that five months after being an egg, they fly solo to South America!

Thank you to Butch Lombardi for his photographs below.

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