Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Osprey manners missing at feeding time as chicks resemble rebellious teenagers!

Lunchtime feeding at the osprey eyrie seems to have lost the orderly and civilised manner we have become familiar with over the course of our young chicks growing up. The youngsters now resemble rebellious teenagers all shouting to each other excitedly across the table at meal times!

Our hungry chicks at feeding time
Our hungry chicks at feeding time
The female (Mum) brought in a good sized fish. We don’t know if Dad had caught it and given it to her, or whether she caught it herself. She flew on to the nest with it and was soon joined by three extremely noisy youngsters. The boldest chick took the fish from her and began to feed itself avidly.
The whole time our bold chick was tucking into the fish, the other two just squawked and created a rumpus. Mum decided that she would like to take the fish back. The chick took on an aggressive stance and faced down her mum, as she mantled over the fish and held onto it in her talons! Her mum backed off and flew from the nest. Once the chicks’ appetite was satisfied, she let go of the fish and moved away.

The next chick quickly seized the opportunity and grabbed the half eaten fish and began to eat , leaving chick number three to really squawk and complain loudly throughout her sisters feeding. Mum returned and it looked as though she was about to take the fish again. We thought that she was probably going to ensure that the third chick was fed, however, her intent was actually more about taking the fish for herself! When she was unsuccessful again, she took off and left the chicks to continue.

After about twenty minutes the second chick lost interest in feeding and thankfully chick number three managed to grab the remaining third of the fish to feed.

This is a great time of year to watch out for families of ospreys out and about near water bodies in the Scottish Borders and particularly around Tweed Valley. Fledged, hungry chicks will be honing their skills for flight and to master fishing techniques. Mostly they will rely upon their parents to catch the fish for them but they must watch how they do it and learn very quickly. Soon the parents will be less keen to share their supplies as they will need to build up their own reserves for the return journey to Africa. Hunger will eventually drive the young birds to fish for themselves. It is a hard lesson for them and their survival depends on it.

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