Considering Electra

I have been thinking about Electra all day…and have spent several blogs trying to gain some insight into her behaviour on the Cowlitz PUD nest since her last chick died of heat stroke. She has spent more time at the nest today than yesterday when it was deathly hot. She food calls when she sees Wattsworth. She stands like a sentry. She spent the night at the nest.

I have been given examples of raptor behaviour when the eggs have been broken and the female continues in incubation mode because of her hormones. Many of you have also seen other raptors incubating eggs for long periods of time when they are unviable. That is one behaviour. But, I am going to go out on a limb and say that the behaviour displayed by Electra is different.

There are no eggs to hatch. How does an Osprey mourn? While I believe that Electra ‘understood’ the death of the first by siblicide, she returned to find her second chick had died – a chick with a crop and seemingly healthy. This just took me back to the situation on Captiva Bald Eagle Nest on Santibel Island this early spring.

Some of you will remember that traumatic event. Joe had brought a rat to the nest and had fed baby Hope and Peace. Peace died almost before anyone could realize how ill she was. Hope grew and only died when one of her blood feathers broke and she bled out. It was the rodenticide, the rat poison that did not allow her blood to coagulate. The father, Joe stood over the body of Peace in the Captiva Bald Eagle Nest in Santibel, Florida. Joe stayed with his baby until the corpses of both Peace and Hope were removed for autopsy. In the end, Joe was so traumatized by the events on the nest that his role as dominant male was usurped.

Joe is not the only male that has shown a response to trauma. Another good example is Romeo on the NE Florida Nest. When Juliette was injured by an intruding female and did not return, Romeo tried to take care of the nest. When he went to get food for the eaglet the intruder returned and took the chick. Romeo left and never returned to his nest.

What I am saying is that I do not think that we can always put behaviours of the birds down to ‘hormones’ or instincts. What Electra is doing is different than incubating and she is not brooding the chicks. She is standing over them, like Joe at Captiva.

We will never get into the mystery of precisely how Joe or Electra are feeling. My thoughts on this behaviour are simply my own observations based on deaths at other nests. I do not know how Electra has responded to the death of her chicks in the past and if this current behaviour is any different.

Other females have lost Osprey chicks and left the nest completely not to return. Landa did not, as I recall, return to the Urdaibai Biosphere Park in Spain after her last two chicks died of hypothermia this year. Others like Mrs G moved her dead chicks to the edge of the nest and she now spends time eating fish and being on the nest with Aran. Mrs G and Aran also accepted the community fish and those were brought to the nest. At other times an only chick dies and the mother has to continue to care for other little ones.

The response to tragedy is not always uniform and predicted.

Tiny Tot has had to deal with an intruder today. Jack owes Tiny lots of fish! There is also concern as Tropical Storm moves from the Caribbean to Florida early nest week. It should be dissipated enough to only cause 34 mph winds. I will keep you posted.

I want to close with leaving you something beautiful to watch. You might never have seen it before. It is a sight not seen in Poole Harbour, England for 200 years. Imagine. 200 Years. It is an Osprey doing a sky dance. This is two year old male 022 trying to impress CJ7. They will not raise a family until next year but 022 is extremely earnest in his desire to bond with CJ7 at the Poole Harbour Nest!

Thank you for joining me today. Take care everyone.

Thank you to the COWLITZ PUD for their streaming cam where I grabbed my screen shots of Electra and the chicks.


  1. Salliane says:

    Tiny Tot at Achieva was treated to breakfast fish in the morning. She left near noon and MISSED Jack stopped by twice…first was for only 1 minute and second was from 1;27pm(EST) to 1:42pm(EST) Jack didn’t see Tumbles. I am afraid that was Jack’s signal that he doesn’t need to deliver, but I may be wrong. I hope not! Tumbles returned and waited and waited, calling for fish. She finally flew up to the perch.

    I still believe Electra still recognizes the chick in the nest. The first night she hover (not nestle) over chick 2. The following night she stood guard over the nest like mother ospreys do when the chicks are too big for her to cover and keep warm.

    Osoyoos nest is no longer live the same day the last chick died. The first two passed between 6am and 7am. The third chick passed before 8am. I can still visualize its death which is soo tragic. Sigh. Maybe if there was more food, they may have survived but this relentless triple digit temperatures are still there!

    I worry about the coming storm to Florida. I really hope it will be just winds below 30mph and some rain. Keeping this thought in my prayers.


    1. Hi Salliane, I believe, like you, that Electra knows her babies. I cannot think of a reason that she wouldn’t. As you know, I have struggled with her behavior – she did brood, but not she stands like Joe did when he was mourning. I grew up in Oklahoma. Animals and birds, in particular, were respected for being wise, for knowing more than mere humans. That is the basis of many things I believe that might go against some understanding. I respect Laura Culley, an old falconer with five or six raptors; one is 28 years old, Miranda. She would say, “Why wouldn’t Electra know her chicks? why wouldn’t Electra mourn?” I might carry this forward to ask: Did Romeo feel it was their responsibility his chick died when he was away hunting for food for them? Did Electra feel responsible because she was away and the heat-killed her chick? Did Joe feel responsible when he brought in the rat that killed both of his chicks? I do not know these answers, but I want to ask them to help to try and help understand. —— Yes, I hope that storm calms down too! Thank you for writing, Salliane. It is wonderful to connect with someone who loves the birds and Tiny so much!

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