Osprey Nest (Squantum)

Osprey Nest (Squantum)

Bird and Wildlife WatchingWetlandsCoastal Habitat


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Each spring, many in Quincy look forward to the return of the ospreys that occupy this nest. Ospreys generally pair for life and often reuse old nests, adding new materials to them each season.

An osprey is a large bird with a length of 22-25 inches, a wingspan of 4.5-6 feet, and a weight of approximately four pounds. The osprey has a dark brown back and a white belly, as well as a white head, which features a dark stripe running from its yellow eyes to the back of its head. Female ospreys are slightly larger than males and may sport a dark speckled necklace.

Ospreys prefer nests near water, especially in large trees, but will also nest on artificial platforms like this one. The female osprey usually lays three eggs, which will hatch in about 4 to 5 weeks. After about 10 weeks, the young will have all their flight feathers. The female will stay on the nest the majority of the time, with the male giving her an occasional break when she leaves to hunt for food.

The osprey dines almost exclusively on live fish, often catching its meals by hovering over the water at an altitude of 50 to 200 feet, then diving feet-first into the water to catch its prey. The osprey's feet are uniquely adapted to "air fishing." Each osprey foot has a reversible front toe, as well as barbs, called spicules, which help it hold onto a slippery fish in flight. Normally, an osprey will aerodynamically position a fish head-first in its talons before it returns to the nest.

Like many birds of prey, the osprey suffered during the 60s and 70s due to the rampant use of DDT and other dangerous pesticides. Rachel Carson's classic "Silent Spring" alerted citizens, scientists, and politicians to the fact that DDT was working its way up the food chain and thinning the eggs of birds of prey. Fortunately, DDT was banned in the U.S. in 1972, and thanks to the hard work of many dedicated people, birds of prey are beginning to rebound.


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Osprey by Poggi

image added by Quincy MA Green Map


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