Adult male Ospreys arrive at their nesting sites a few days before the females. Together they build or rebuild their nest from last year. After a brief courtship, the female settles into her nest and continues to make it comfortable. If all goes well, eggs are laid. There will be only one brood each year.
Incubation begins when the first egg is laid. Subsequent eggs are laid one to three days apart; clutches have 2-4 eggs. The female usually takes on most of the responsibility of incubation, seldom leaving except to feed. The male then takes over incubation until her return. Incubation takes from 34 – 40 days.
The first chick to hatch has an advantage over the siblings which hatch a day or two later. The first chick grows quickly and can dominate the nest. In years when the food supply is low, the dominant first chick can usurp the available food supply to the peril of the smaller siblings. This insures that at least one of the year’s brood might survive. The chicks are brooded by the female for approximately ten days. The young are too large to fit under her by this time. She will continue to protect them by covering the young with her wing.
Condition at Hatching
Capable of limited motion. Covered with down and with eyes open.
Division of Labor
The male, dedicated to providing for his family, does all of the hunting until the chicks are six weeks old. The male delivers the fish to the female on the nest who tears off pieces to feed to the young. At three to four weeks of age the chicks start to exercise their wings by holding onto the edge of the nest and flapping their wings. Mom then moves to a near by perch to guard the nest. The female may leave the nest to hunt when the chicks are six weeks old. The young start to feed themselves at this time.
At seven to eight weeks of age the young will take their first flight. They spend their days practicing flying and perching near the male’s feeding perch calling when the male returns with food. Two weeks after fledging the young will start to follow the male on hunting trips. Four to eight weeks after fledging the young Osprey will start to emulate their parents and begin to hunt fish on their own.
Thanks for Reading
Harriett O. Raptor
North River Carteret Co. NC