We’re happy to report that our two chicks appear to be doing well. They’re a little over two weeks old and in their reptilian stage, which means their down has become darker and woolier. Osprey expert Alan Poole says this is a stage when “they are black, scaly, and often crouch at danger, reminiscent of their reptilian ancestors.” If you’d like to seem some excellent close-up photos of the reptilian stage and the incoming pin feathers, check out these Maurice River, New Jersey osprey gallery photos.
If you look closely at the Osprey Cam when the chicks are visible, you can also see a white stripe down their backs. When they lie in the nest, this stripe helps camouflage them and makes them blend into the sticks in the nest, so they’re not as visible to predators that are flying over.
As for food, our parents seem to be bringing in a decent amount of meals. Our Osprey Cam platform is directly in front of the Blackwater River, which is the heart of the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge. The river gets its name because tannic acid from decaying leaves on the forest floor darkens the water, which drains from thousands of acres into the river whenever it rains.
According to the Center for Conservation Biology, “the diet of ospreys in the Chesapeake Bay varies by salinity, with Atlantic menhaden and seatrouts (Cynoscion spp.) the most common prey item for breeding pairs within the saltier waters of the lower Bay, whereas gizzard shad (Dorosoma cepedianum) and catfish (Ictaluridae) dominated in the fresher waters of tributaries.” Blackwater River is somewhat near the middle of the Bay and has brackish water, so osprey meals include shad, bullhead catfish, carp and perch. Every great once in a while, we hear stories of ospreys eating snakes or squirrels, but it’s rare, with an osprey’s diet being about 99% fresh fish.
If you’d like to learn more about fish species in the Chesapeake Bay, be sure to check out the handy interactive field guide on the Chesapeake Bay Program website.