General Osprey Info
Migration: The Osprey will generally arrive here to reclaim their territories in late March or early April after spending the winter months down south in Central America or Venezuela. After summering here in New England, the birds will head back south sometime in October.
Description: Osprey are birds of prey and 99% of their food consumption is fish. Hence, their residency close to shallow water where fish are often close to the surface.
The adult osprey body is 21-23 inches, with the female being slightly larger than the male. Their wingspan is 5 - 6 feet. Osprey have a white head and face with a very distinct brown stripe across their eyes to the backs of their necks. Their backs and top feathers are dark brown, their undersides are white. The female has dark streaking on her upper chest that looks like a necklace. The undersides of their wings are white with brown bars.
Breeding and Chicks: Breeding pairs of osprey will prepare their nest and partake in a courtship involving the male performing "sky dances" and presenting fish to the female. If breeding is successful, the female will lay a clutch of two - three eggs in early May. During the 5 to 6 week incubation period, the male continues to bring fish to the female and may relieve the female of her brooding duty so that she can take a short fly around. The eggs hatch in a staggered manor over a few days. The hatchlings emerge with a down covering and their feathers will develop over the next three weeks. The male continues bringing fish to the nest which the female will feed to the chicks. The smallest chick is often left hungry and will not survive when fish is scarce and there are more
dominant siblings that fight and take over the food.
Within just two months, the young birds will start experimenting with their flying abilities and practice their skills just above the nest. The parents will coax the fledglings by cutting back on the fish supply which encourages the young to take flight. The fledglings will learn how to fish and will then spend more and more time away from the nest. In late summer or early fall, the parents will leave the nest first and head south to their favorite wintering spot. The fledglings usually stay a few weeks longer until their instincts prompt them to also fly south. These young osprey will not return in the spring with their parents. They will stay in their wintering spot for an extra year before migrating north and usually return to the same general area of their birth.