2013: This Bird Has Flown
It has been an interesting 2013 year for the Ospreys at Milford Point. The male arrived March 22, pretty much on schedule, but the female didn’t show until March 29, nearly a week late. The first egg was laid on April 8, the second egg on April 11, and the third on April 14, also behind schedule from last year.
Only one egg hatched, on May 22. The others were likely affected by the cold wet early spring. Normally, this pair raises three or four young. This year’s baby, having no competition, grew quickly; we started calling it Baby Hughie as it was so plump, and it flew (fledged) on July 20.
The newly fledged baby is doing well, and has been flying with its parents; it will probably leave the area after the middle of August, but could linger into September.
View the Osprey nest live here!
We invite you to take a glimpse into their lives, and welcome feedback in the form of screen shots, comments, questions, and more. Here is an identification tip so you can easily tell the difference between mom and dad – the male has a nearly pure white breast while the female has a brown necklace.
Ospreys have been using the nesting platform at the Coastal Center since 1997. Its location, in the middle of the 840-acre Charles E. Wheeler Salt Marsh, allows the Ospreys to easily feed and care for young. This spot also offers visitors to the Coastal Center some fantastic views of the raptors from the large viewing windows or from the observation tower or platforms.
The typical schedule for ‘our’ Ospreys at Milford Point is as follows:
- They arrive from their wintering grounds between March 20-31
- Nest building begins shortly after and continues through the beginning of April
- The first egg is usually laid during the second or third week in April
- Subsequent eggs appear two or three days after the one before
- There are typically three eggs laid per season, but ‘our’ Osprey have been producing clutches of four eggs for the past few years
- The eggs hatch during the second half of May, sometimes in early June
- Chicks fledge by mid-July and have a lot to learn still before leaving the comfort of Milford Point
- August and early September mark the time to leave, explore nearby areas and then begin a long journey south for winter
Below is more detailed information on the species:
Clutch size: 2-4 eggs (3 on average)
Incubation: 32-41 days
Life span: 15-20 years (in the wild)
Appearance: Osprey are large (22”-25” in length) black and white fish-eating raptors, with a bold white forehead and eyebrow, and a wingspan of 58”-72” inches. Both males and females are similar, but females generally exhibit more spotting (a “necklace” of spots) on the breast than males and are generally a little larger. In flight, they hold their wings back in a characteristic “M” shape. An adult Osprey generally weighs between 2-2.4 pounds.
Mating habits: Ospreys mate for life, but will often accept another mate if one of the pair dies.
Nests/Nesting Habits: Ospreys nest in tree tops, poles, towers, sometimes roof tops, chimneys, navigation buoys, rock pinnacles, stick piles, and even on the ground, but never far from water. Nesting material includes sticks, grass, seaweed and clods of mud. The following have also been found in Osprey nests: oars, fish nets, life preservers, hay rake, toy boats, brooms, boots, shoes, dolls, baskets, plastic sheeting and bags, door mat, bird wings and bleached bones (and in 2006 at Milford Point, one blue stuffed teddy bear!). The adults return year after year to rebuild and add material to the nest. Some nests are occupied every year for 40 or more years by a succession of birds and reach a depth of over 10 feet. Fledglings leave the nest after about 8 weeks from their hatch date.
Food/Eating habits: Strictly fresh-caught fish: herring, flounder, striped bass, bluefish, perch, eels, goldfish, shad, carp, catfish, trout and many others. Ospreys plunge-dive feet first into the water to catch fish that are either swimming near the surface or in shallow water.
Natural enemies: Crows, gulls and raccoons will eat unguarded eggs and young.
Voice: A loud, rich musical whistled series of chirps — “cheeap, cheeap, cheeap” — or a rising, shrill whistle — “whew, whew, whew, whew.”
Range: Ospreys are found on every continent expect Antarctica. In the northeast U.S., Ospreys migrate south, from September to early November, to winter in the Gulf States, Florida and Central America, returning to the northeast by mid-March.
Text by Scott Kruitbosch, Photos copyright Twan Leenders