It’s time you went


Imagine the problem faced by osprey parents when it comes time to boot the chicks from the nest. Winter is coming; chicks must learn to fend for themselves; soon they must migrate thousands of kilometres on their own. Time is short—they must leave the nest. (These chicks will return as adults in a couple of years when they are ready to breed.)

Left to their own devices, osprey chicks would hang around and live off their parents for a few months longer, which is what they do do in tropical climes. Local parents cannot afford to let that happen: children must be persuaded to leave home.

Starvation is the main tactic. Enticement is another.

As the time for fledging approaches, parents decrease the number of fish being brought to the nest. Indeed, the chicks even begin to lose weight.

Parents now taunt their hungry chicks with a couple of tactics: They bring inedible things to the nest; They catch a fish and then repeatedly display it by flying past the nest and even dropping it nearby—but do not deliver it to the nest.

The increasingly desperate chicks respond by exercising their wings in the nest, and eventually by heading out on their own.

A parent returns to the nest carrying only a stick. At this time of year, I have also seen them merely deliver leaves. This famished chick looks up as if to say: “What the heck? Bring me something I can eat.”

Besides starving their chicks, parents taunt them by flying past the nest with a fish that is never delivered. Here, an adult flies towards the nest with a fish, but did not share it.

The taunting tactic of displaying a fish during a flyby enabled me to get my best ever shot of an osprey packing a fish. A male kokanee was used for this tease.

The increasingly desperate chicks respond by exercising their wings in the nest. “We will show those stingy parents of ours; We will head out and get our own food.”

“Just before we separate, let’s pose for a farewell family portrait.” Ah, the memories.


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9 Responses to It’s time you went

  1. Lorna Surina says:

    Wow! Those are awesome and as usual informative. Thanks for both Alistair.

  2. Arnie Lazarus says:

    awesome photos. What camera and lens.

    I use a Nikon D5000 and various modern and ancient lenses.

  3. Darlene Aikman says:

    awesome pictures, thanks for sharing.

  4. Travis says:

    By reading this I just realized there is more to photography than just trying to get the perfect shot.

  5. Paul Whalen says:

    Well done Alistair, beautiful photography.

  6. Margaret Crossley says:

    This morning a young osprey landed on the paving stones in front of our house. At first we thought he must be hurt or lost, but after resting for about 30 minutes, and he flew away. I regularly visit your excellent website for information about our very special lake. Your amazing images of the osprey family and accompanying commentary help me to understand more clearly the behaviors of our morning visitor.

  7. Elaine Moore says:

    Oh, my goodness, Alistair – these are awesome shots!! And a great explanation as to how the adults get the chicks to fly. thank you.

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