Monday, February 28, 2011

Spring Must Be Near

Robins on your lawn might be your sign of spring, but a post on the NJ Osprey Project blog reminds me that adult ospreys begin heading north in the first weeks of March.

Volunteers with the NJ Osprey Project help install an osprey platform
along Patcong Creek in Linwood
Image © Ben Wurst via

In the northeast U.S., Ospreys migrate south, from September to early November, to winter in the Gulf States, Florida and Central America. Ospreys return to the same nest site year after year, and young adults return to where they originated to reproduce when they are 3 years old.

Ospreys usually live till around 10 years old in the wild. The oldest osprey that was ever encountered in New Jersey was a female that was 18 years old.

OSPREY -  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Osprey are large (22”-25” in length) black and white fish-eating raptors, with a bold white forehead and eyebrow, and a wingspan of 58”-72” inches.

Both males and females are similar, but females generally exhibit more spotting (a “necklace” of spots) on the breast than males and are generally a little larger. In flight, they hold their wings back in a characteristic “M” shape.

Ospreys nest in tree tops, poles, towers, stubs, sometimes roof tops, chimneys, navigation buoys, rock pinnacles, stick piles, and even on the ground, but never far from water. Nesting material includes sticks, grass, seaweed and clods of mud.

The adults return year after year in early March to rebuild and add material to the nest. Some nests are occupied every year for 40 or more years by a succession of birds and reach a depth of over 10 feet. Fledglings leave the nest after about 8 weeks from their hatch date.

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