Ospreys on the Columbia River
June 10, 2014
The Columbia River Gorge is filled with magnificent birds, but for today my focus is the Osprey. I’m regularly watching ten nests dotting the Columbia River between Bingen and Lyle with an occasional foray over to Oregon’s side of the river to watch a few more.
Like most other things – the more I learn, the more I realize I don’t know.
For example, I had no idea they were hawks! I wondered how much longer I would have to wait to see baby Osprey. Did they mate for life? These and other pressing questions led me to The Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s All About Birds.
Osprey build their nests in open areas on tall snags, treetops or artificial platforms. Most of the nests I’m watching are over water on channel markers and pilings or near the water on utility poles.
Ospreys build their nest with sticks – I’ve watched them carry sticks that look like branches. The nests are lined with bark, grass and assorted findings to make a comfy abode for the family.
Osprey eat fish. 99% of their diet is live fish. They carry their ‘catch’ head first for less wind resistance.
I’ve watched them pluck fish out of the river but didn’t know they can dive up to three feet to catch it!
They live 15 to 20 years and mate for life or until one dies. Osprey lay 1 – 4 eggs that hatch on separate days, the first chick emerging up to five days before the last one. The incubation period is 36 to 42 days and nesting period is 50 – 55 days.
Nesting Ospreys defend only the immediate area around their nest rather than a larger territory; they vigorously chase other Ospreys that encroach on their nesting areas. I’ve also seen them chase Bald eagles away from their nest area!
“After the 1972 U.S. DDT ban, populations rebounded, and the Osprey became a conservation success symbol. But Ospreys are still listed as endangered or threatened in some states—especially inland, where pesticides decimated or extirpated many populations. As natural nest sites have succumbed to tree removal and shoreline development, specially constructed nest platforms and other structures such as channel markers and utility poles have become vital to the Osprey’s recovery.” To learn more about Osprey and other birds go to The Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s All About Birds.
Prior to 1972, the average American consumer was told that DDT was safe to use. There are many chemicals on the market today that we’re told are safe to use. Over the last twenty years I’ve quit using any of them and my garden has filled with an abundance of birds, butterflies, bees and more. If you want more colorful flying beauties in your life it’s simple to eliminate weed and bug sprays from your habitat.