Bay Journal

Ospreys are Eggs-cellent!

  • By Kathleen Gaskell on June 08, 2013
  • Comments are closed for this article.
Tom, left, and Audrey sit on their nest during the early days of its construction. Audrey does most of the incubating and her larger size helps her guard the nest as well as keep her eggs and chicks warm. Tom helps to incubate, but for the most part he is in the air, scanning the water for food to feed his family or patrolling the skies to keep away any other birds, especially eagles, that might pose a threat to Audrey or their nestlings. These tasks are more easily accomplished with a smaller, lighter body.  (Chesapeake Conservancy) Audrey shows off her clutch.
 (Chesapeake Conservancy)

Bay Buddies focuses on Tom & Audrey, the Bay's celebrated osprey parents. Here is a test of osprey lore. Getting all of these right will earn a feather in your cap!

1. Osprey and owls are the only two raptors with this feature. What is it?
A. Disproportionately large eyes that allow them to spot prey from a distance.
B. A reversible back toe that allows them to hold slippery prey with two toes in front and two in the back.
C. Nostrils that close to keep water out during dives.
D. Spicules (needle-like part) under their toes to help hold onto slippery prey.

2. Female ospreys, see photo above, have a "necklace" of dark feathers around their breast. It is thought this helps the bird because:
A. It serves as camouflage on the nest.
B. It attracts males.
C. They contain melanin, which strengthens these feathers from wear and tear from the nest during incubation.
D. They are used to attract heat to warm the nest.

3. Humans have posed various threats to ospreys. Around the turn of the 20th century, it was egg collectors. In the 1950s–'60s, the pesticide DDT — which built up in the fatty tissues of insect-eating fish and then the osprey that ate the fish — interfered with the birds' metabolism, resulting in eggs with such thin shells that they broke in the nest. Now we are warned to not discard fishing line, which can entangle the birds. A letter in the September 2012 Bay Journal detailed the danger of another item in which an osprey become entangled. It was:
A. A flag hanging at the end of a dock.
B. A windsock hanging at the end of a dock
C. A bathing suit left to dry off the end of dock
D. A jump rope left lying on a dock.

4. Which of these was once believed about osprey:
A. Ancient Romans thought that osprey parents forced their young to fly to the sun. The parents would kill any offspring that failed this task.
B. Albertus Magnus, or St. Albert the Great, wrote that an osprey had two different feet: One had talons, the other was webbed like a duck.
C. During the Medieval Age, the osprey's talent at catching fish was attributed to the fish being in such awe of the bird that they would turn belly-up and let themselves be captured.
D. All of these were once believed.


1. B
2. C
3. B
4. D

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About Kathleen Gaskell

Kathleen A. Gaskell, the layout & design editor for the Bay Journal, has been involved with several environmental programs for children.

Read more articles by Kathleen Gaskell


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