reptilian stage

Three Weeks Old

Osprey Chicks at Three Weeks

Osprey Chicks at Three Weeks

Our two chicks are now three weeks old and life at the nest seems to be good. The parents are bringing in a decent amount of fish and the chicks are clearly growing.

Another thing that’s noticeable at this stage is the big white stripe that runs down their backs. If a predator was flying over the nest, the stripe would make it harder to see the chick, since the stripe helps the chick blend into the nest material.

At this age, the chicks are 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.” They do seem to spend a lot of time lying down in the nest, except at mealtime.

Another milestone we can’t help but recognize is June 23/24 is about the time that last year’s chicks were taken — likely by a Great horned owl or a bald eagle. Not long after our chicks disappeared, the chicks at a popular water nest not far from the Osprey Cam nest also disappeared, which seemed to clearly indicate a predator. In addition, one of our Facebook fans captured this photo of a Great horned owl not far from the two osprey nests, and we know for a fact that the owls live and nest at Blackwater NWR.

Great Horned Owl, credit: USFWS

Great Horned Owl, credit: USFWS

The Audubon Guide to North American Birds states that the Great horned owl is “Aggressive and powerful in its hunting (sometimes known by nicknames such as “tiger owl”), it takes prey as varied as rabbits, hawks, snakes, and even skunks, and will even attack porcupines, often with fatal results for both prey and predator.” Great horned owls are also known as one of the few animals that are a threat to ospreys because the owls can take out not only the chicks but also the mother osprey sleeping on the nest. Considering how large and powerful a female osprey is, that’s pretty impressive.

But before we get too down on the Great horned owl, it’s important to note that they do help control the rodent population. In fact, we probably wouldn’t want to live in a world where owls weren’t helping to control the rodent population.

Finally, for those who wonder how a large female osprey could fail to protect her chicks from a Great horned owl, we offer the following video that shows how difficult it would be. FYI: This is not for the squeamish.

Until next time,
Lisa – webmaster
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Reptilian Stage

Reptilian stage

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.

Until next time,
Lisa – webmaster
Support the Blackwater Cams
Contact Us

Categories: chick, reptilian stage | 2 Comments

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