Late August and early September is the time to yield for Ospreys. Not only do the parents nest near busy roads but the young fledge and build their strength with low flights to and from the nest across the road. Last week the rehab team admitted three fledgling Ospreys. Two were rescued off the road healthy and unharmed, but the third was a vehicle strike mortality. The healthy fledglings were banded and returned successfully to their nests. But why are they on the roads?
We admit Osprey fledglings that have been hit by cars or rescued off highways every summer because their parents often nest very close to busy roads. Ospreys have extra long metacarpus bones which give them a lot of power to be able to fly straight up out of the water carrying a heavy fish. But their long wings are not great for navigating through branches. So, on more natural nest sites, Ospreys will build on top of “topped” trees where they don’t have to navigate through branches. Ospreys will also readily nest on man-made structures like power line poles. Since this can be dangerous, power companies will often put up nest platforms nearby where Ospreys can build their nests. Their strong nest fidelity means they will nest at the same site year after year.
Every spring, the Osprey parents return from their wintering grounds in the Caribbean or on the Gulf Coast. The male will return a week earlier than the female and begin setting up the nest. This often involves adding new materials to the nest. When the female arrives, the two will court, breed, and then the female will lay 1-4 eggs. After 37 days from laying, the eggs begin to hatch and the tiny altricial young beg for tiny bites of fish. The male will do most of the fishing while the female protects the young and keeps them warm. Later in the summer, you may see a parent with wings extended, shielding the young from the sun.
At about 50 days old, the young will leave the nest on unsteady wings, often ending up on the ground. During this phase, Teton Raptor Center receives many calls, and rightly so. The fledglings are vulnerable to vehicle strikes and predation. However, since this is part of a natural progression, the best thing to do is to usher the bird off the road and then give it space. The two fledglings that recently came into the clinic unhurt were banded and released back at their nest sites. For the next 2-3 weeks they will stay near their nests, often returning to the nest throughout the day. The parents will soon leave them behind when they head for warmer climates, and the young, now independent, will follow in early September.
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO HELP OSPREYS?
🚗 Slow down near Osprey nests and keep an eagle eye out for young Ospreys as they build their strength and coordination.
🚮 Pick up any trash! Especially twine like fishing line and baling twine that Ospreys like to put in their nests. This can become dangerously entwined around their legs.
🪶 Consider installing a nest platform if you have Ospreys on your property.
🎣 Choose to use lead free tackle.
📣 Help us spread the word by telling your friends and family about these special birds and what we can do to help keep them safe.