Hello! Thanks for calling ReNest. This is Robin. How can I help you?
Ozzy: Yes, we’re newly weds searching for the perfect place to build our home. We need something fast. Do you have anything available?
Robin: Of course! Describe your perfect spot.
Ozzy: Well, we need to live near the water, shallow water preferably. We’d like an expansive view. And we don’t like neighbors.
Robin: I’ve got a platform in mind that will be perfect for you!
Paddling on the bays this time of the year, you’re sure to see Osprey couples guarding their nests. And if you get too close, you’re sure to hear their sharp, distinctive warnings. At this point in the season most of their eggs have hatched. So we’re now seeing the fuzzy heads of Osprey chicks peering from the nest.
With Osprey, as with humans, having a solid home goes a long way towards having a successful family. They have many requirements for a nesting site so finding the perfect location isn’t easy. Since they can only reach prey three feet below the surface they like to be near shallow water. They need an adequate supply of fish within a twelve-mile radius of their nest. Open surroundings offer easy approaches. Elevation provides protection from predators. Finally, their nests get big so the site needs to support up to 300 pounds.
Once they’ve chosen a site, the male brings the building supplies to the female, and she arranges them with her own decorating flair. They start with large sticks for the base and add smaller sticks as they continue up the sides. Towards the end of the process they include bark, pine needles, and algae mats to cushion and insulate the eggs. And finally, an old corn cob, pine cone, or a pink plastic bag adds the perfect fashion statement.
The first year the couple mates, the nest is relatively small – about 2.5 feet wide and three to six inches deep. But year after year, adding more and more sticks, grasses, pine needles, and other flotsam and jetsam, the nest grows and grows and can end up being big enough for a human to sit in. However, one increasingly frequent and heart-breaking consequence of the use of human trash for nesting material, specifically old fishing line and twine, is Osprey chick entanglement deaths.
The shape of the Osprey nest gives clues about where the couple is in the breeding cycle. Bowl-shaped while incubating the eggs, the nest flattens out when the chicks hatch. And just before fledging, the nest is completely flat.
A solid nest does more than impress the neighbors. Since Osprey return to the same nest every spring, a strong home means less time and energy spent rebuilding which leaves more time and energy for the important work of creating the next generation. Therefore nest maintenance continues throughout the season with even the chicks helping. How else do Osprey chicks earn their allowance?
A pleasure to come home to and a safe place for our families to flourish – maybe our own nesting habits aren’t that different from the Osprey!
by Jenifer Adams-Mitchell
Osprey nesting facts in this post are from AllAboutBirds.org