The birds in my garden are always aware when I am watching them especially Mr Blue Jay and family. Sometimes he will stop and look right in the window and fly up into the lilacs and down to the corn as if he is teasing me. Other days he might sit on top of the deck chair calling to remind me that the corn cob has disappeared. Or maybe he is saying hello! Today, it was the youngest of the trio staring at me as he flew in and out to get kernels off the cob. Dad, Mr Blue Jay, was observing from the lilacs.
How do I know this is the youngest? He is a bit thinner and his legs are a charcoal grey, not black. I can also identify them by their facial markings and I still don’t know, after several years, where they roost or which is the male or the female. All I do know is that in exchange for a corncob, some peanuts, and some seeds, this family of three brings me year round joy.
Of course, the birds on the live streaming cams have no idea there are hundreds of people, sometimes thousands, watching them. Many have caught their reflection in the camera’s dome. I recall Izzi, the peregrine falcon eyas at Orange, and the little Golden Eagle in Romania liking to look at themselves. It is very cute.
Today, Little Bob was having some fun. It is a good thing he is not conscious or caring of anything to have to do with humans!
Yes, that is Little Bob. He is fanning out his tail like a peacock. While we are not able to see it clearly yet, Little Bob’s tail will have stripes, alternating white and espresso. This same type of barring will also be seen on the secondary feathers. The secondary feathers are those after the primary or wing tip feathers.
In studying other birds of prey, those dark stripes are often counted with the understanding that on a Red-tailed Hawk, for example, the nestling needs at least 5 dark bands to fledge. It is simply a way of gauging the length of the tail because tail length is one of the elements necessary for flight.
In the image below, Little Bob has lowered his tail a bit and is stretching his wings in what is known as the ‘W’ pattern. It will be familiar to you as it is the shape that gets tightened up when ospreys dive head long into the water.
The nest on the barge at Port Lincoln is getting crowded as these young ospreys grow. There is Little Bob looking out standing in front of Mum. You can clearly see that dark espresso line (it is neither brown or black) that runs from the beak, across the eye and down to the nape of the neck. This dark strip is your word for the day, it is the auricular. Many believe that this helps to stop the glare of the sun so the birds can see better.
There is a lot of speculation on the streaming cam chat as to the gender of Little Bob. Ospreys need strong legs and feet in order to fish and pull their prey out of the water. They grip their prey with their long black talons using those ‘scratchy pads’ – specialized barbs -on the bottom of the feet to hold the fish secure. They also are the only raptor to have a reversible outer toe which helps them secure their prey. They will, most often, position the fish so that the head is facing in front which is a help with wind resistance.
Ah, but back to telling the males from the females. Measurements will be taken when the three get their Darvic rings. Females tend to have thicker leg bones than males. A good example were the measurements taken of Laddie and NC0’s two fledglings, LR1 and LR2. With females being at least 20% larger than males (normally), the first to hatch and the largest was ringed LR1. The wing measurement of 337mm and weight of 1.51kg led the bander to state that LR1 was a female. The second chick was three days younger and had a wing measurement of 276mm. It weighed 1.4kg and was said to be a male. The differences are slight and the only real way to determine gender is through a DNA test or by seeing an egg laid.
Note: LR2, the male, is the fledgling that has been seen several times over the last week in Spain. Fabulous news!
That said there are a lot of people who believe that Little Bob is really Little Bobbette.
One of the other ways that people believe females are different is through their darker and wider ‘necklace’. Unfortunately, I believe this idea to be unreliable as there are a number of known males with very elaborate and dark necklaces. One good example is Blue 022 the ‘maybe’ mate of CJ7 at Poole Harbour.
It is often difficult to establish which chick is which on the nest. As my concern is in the third hatch, I have paid particular attention to Little Bob. Look at the top of his head. Whether you say Little Bob has a white V or a round circle on its head doesn’t matter – both apply. Look carefully at his head in the image below. One of the things that will not change over Little Bob’s lifetime will be the pattern on its head.
Oops… there Little Bob goes again!
Oh, my. This time he is going to spread his wings, too. Somehow I do not think Big Bob is going to be happy about that. Did I say this nest was getting crowded? Just wait til they all start flapping and hovering at once.
Just like Mr Blue Jay and family, Little Bob continues to delight me. I am so glad that he doesn’t know how many of us are watching his every move.
Take care and thank you for joining me. My newsletter will be late tomorrow. It is time to pick up a large order of birdseed and corn cobs for the garden animals for the winter.
Thank you to the Port Lincoln Osprey Project for their streaming cam where I took my screen shots.