Very Impressive

I find myself continually checking on the PLO nest. Do you?

It is a sunny 18 degree C day in Port Lincoln, Australia. The problem is the speed of the winds. The rate is 42 kmh or 26 mph. The water is choppy. The barge is moving a bit. Add that together with three ‘Bobbling’ Bobs and well – could you feed these three hungry Osplets moving about every which way? I am certain that I could not! Dad has even delivered the fish despite the waves and wind. I really am finding myself being totally impressed by these two adults.

After the osplets hatch, the Mom tends to stay on the nest most of the time. That said she does take breaks and, at this nest, Dad can be seen relieving her so she can have a stretch and a relaxation break. Still, his primary role is food delivery – ‘Daddy Door Dash’. Alan Poole reminds us that the number of fish deliveries doubles and triples in the first 20 days after hatch. This is the rapid growth period. It is during these first weeks that we do not want to have cold rainy weather either – it seems to both impact the fishing as well as the health of the wee babes.

Ospreys are semi-precocial. This means that they are not as developed as ducks or chickens who, after 24 hours, can walk, are covered with feathers, and feed themselves. Ducks and chickens are precocial. Songbirds, on the other hand, are born altricial –naked and require complete care. Osplets are in between. They are born with down but still need the parent to keep them warm and feed them. They cannot regulate their own temperature until they are 2 to 3 weeks old.

In terms of growth, osplets should “triple their body weight in the first 8 days after hatch and then double that again in the next 4 days” according to Poole. By the time they are a month old, if all has gone well, they will be 70-80% of their adult size.

Mom has the task of trying to make sure that each open beak gets some fish. She is ever so gentle. The pieces of fish are so tiny. It is difficult to image those small morsels in that large beak of hers meeting up with the tiny, tiny beak of a wee babe. But she does it! Instead of still pictures I thought a couple of videos would help illustrate how impressive this female Osprey is at feeding.

I have to admit that I always worry about the third hatch. In the first video both Big Bob and Medium Bob had some bites. Little Bob had his beak wide open but I didn’t see any fish go in.

In the next video, Mom makes a point of feeding Little Bob. Look at how she stretches over Big Bob to reach Little Bob’s beak. What a relief!

These Bobs are doing so well. They still have their egg tooth that they used to get out of those hard shells. And, of course, we can see that bold dark eye stripe so characteristic of these fish eagles.

One day they will resemble their parents but there is a lot of growth and development that has to take place before then. Right now they have a coat of soft light grey down. This will be replaced by a darker wool and then the osplets will enter the reptilian phase where they look more like their dinosaur relatives than birds. The rusty-gold and coppery red of the pin feathers is gorgeous.

The three osplets in the nest below – not the PLO nest but another just for illustrative purposes show a bit of the range of plumage development. There is the lighter grey down, then the emergence of the charcoal and the one on the left is entering the reptile phase.

“7-10 day old Osprey young” by Conserve Wildlife Foundation of NJ is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Their flight feathers will emerge last.

There are certainly exciting days to come but, for now, I want to focus on the magic as they seemingly grow right before our eyes. The stated range of fledging dates is 55-60 days in Australia. Those days will pass very quickly. Let’s enjoy them while we can!

I do hope you enjoyed the short videos of the three Bobs at the PLO nest having a feeding today. I do find myself continually commenting on how cute they are — and they are ever so precious.

Thank you for joining me. Send your warm wishes to this nest so that Dad’s fishing ventures are successful and that all three grow healthy and fledge. That would be remarkable. I am so hopeful this year.

Thank you to the PLO Project and their streaming cam where I took my screen shots and video clips.

3 Cheers for Tiny Little Bob!

White YW delivered the tea time fish – a nice large one – to the Foulshaw Moss Osprey nest in Cumbria. Blue 462 nabbed it first and then guess who pinches it off big sibling! Tiny Little!

Big Sibling 464 on the left and 462 on the right – all waiting for Tiny Little to make a wrong move with that nice fish. Go away both of you!!!!!

Then 462 got it back!

The first round both 462 and 463 struggled with the mouth and eye area. Wonder who is going to get that fish when it is nicely opened.

Ah, White YW cannot stand to hear one of his fledglings call for food. He promptly went out and got another one. Blue 464 got that one. It was such a nice fish that 464 was eating on it an hour later. Tiny Little flew off the nest probably chasing Dad. No one should be worried thought. Tiny Little had a nice crop prior to snagging that fish off 462. None of these chicks are hungry!

Blue 464 is enjoying his nice big fish – alone! No one is around sniffing for some pieces.

Good Night Foulshaw Moss Ospreys!

In Wisconsin, Malin is busy self-feeding on a piece of a fish that Dad delivered. What captivates me today are the wing feathers. They are looking so good. There is a condensation mark but if you look to the right that one dangling feather from earlier in the month is now ‘crossing over’ the way that it should. The other wing feather scallops are lined up perfectly. Oh, Malin, you are growing up!

The nests are so big and every streaming cam distorts the images (or so it seems). It is difficult to try and determine how big Malin actually is.

There is no time code on the Collins Marsh camera. I believe that there was another delivery by Collins to Malin – this time another piece of a fish. That is really helpful for Malin to work on its self-feeding and not get caught up with the bony mouths and eyes. Eventually Malin will need to do that. Right now one of the wonderful things is Malin’s anticipation of the food drop and his excitement and mantling on its arrival.

In the imager below, Malin sees Collins flying into the nest. Look at his eyes. He has also dropped his wings in anticipation of mantling that fish.

Malin pivots. Wings stretched down and out for mantling with beak forward to grab the fish from Collins’s talons.

Get out of the way Collins! Malin has secured the food.

Ah. Over. I notice also that Collins’s crop is nicely full. He has eaten the head and perhaps part of the fish before the delivery.

These two food drops for Malin to self-feed come after the aggressive manner that Malin approached the fish yesterday with Marsha. We are moving on to the next phase: no more feedings by mom? Let’s watch and see.

Is this the tail of a little Bullhead?

It is a beautiful day on the Canadian Prairies. For the first time in ever so long we can see blue sky, not sky filled with smoke. It is 21 degrees C. That is 69.8 F. Just lovely for a trip to the one of our local parks.

It was a delight to walk up to the duck pond and discover that our Parks Department has put up signs to educate people on why they should not feed the ducks bread. Last year the local birding group had a big campaign to get this practice stopped. Today, the signs are up. They are large and prominently placed at strategic entrances and exits. No one was feeding the ducks, they were just enjoying them! Well done Parks Department!!!!!!

Thanks to the recent rains many of the geese were out on the fields where people play soccer or cricket eating green grass.

A male juvenile Mallard enjoying the water fountain at the rocks.

There was real discussion on the identification of the duck above and the one below. The discussion ended when the little duck below showed us her feeding behaviour. She is a dabbler so she is a female Mallard – not a female Blue Winged-teal.

Mallards come to Manitoba to breed. They arrive in the spring and leave in the fall. Here the little female is mottled brown with a whitish tail, and orange feet.

When feeding, she tips up and dabbles in the shallow waters of the duck pond for pondweeds and aquatic invertebrates. They also feed on larval amphibians and fish eggs.

The female Wood Duck and her ducklings. You can tell the Wood Duck by its white tear-eyed eye patch. Her breast is a mottled brown and white.

Wood Ducks are migratory birds in Manitoba. They arrive in the spring, normally April, and will head south in October. They are cavity nesters. They will lay their eggs in a tree cavity or specially built enclosed wood boxes. The ducklings are ready to bounce from the nest when they are 24 hours old. Precocial animals and birds hatch/born with all their feathers, skin, etc. and are able to see, hear, and move about.

The little Wood Duck and her ducklings mingled with the Canada Geese. Only once did I see a goose get aggressive towards one of the little ones.

Malin’s initial feather issues have caused me to spend more time looking at the back and wings of birds than I ever would have thought possible. Each individual feather is simply beautiful – taken together they are like a wonderful musical symphony – each performing their own task to help this Canada goose swim, walk, and fly.

The tail and wing feathers of a non-breeding male Mallard.

As we were leaving, a Juvenile Bald Eagle was soaring above us.

Then the Northern Goshawk beats its large wings. The Northern Goshawk lives in Manitoba all year round except for the southern part where they can be seen only in the summer or in the winter if food supplies in the North fall.

It was a good day! The skies are turning grey and the wind is picking up a little and maybe, just maybe, we will have some more rain. Wishing and hoping.

Thank you for joining me today. Take care everyone. See you soon.

Thanks to the following for their streaming cams where I grab my screen shots: the Cumbrian Wildlife Trust and the Foulshaw Moss Osprey Nest and the Collins Marsh Osprey Nest.

Milestones

Birds have developmental ‘milestones’ just like humans. Right now there are so many Bald Eagle nests where eaglets are already two or four weeks old. In others, the parents are incubating eggs. And there are others where the parents are only beginning to start working on the nests. You can see every stage of a Bald Eagles growth from the female laying the egg to their fledging from the nest on the many streaming eagle cameras. Every eaglet is different, just like people and their development will not happen on a single specific date.

Within the overall umbrella of bird development, you might remember Daisy the Duck (see previous blogs for more information on this remarkable little duck). This Black Pacific Duck laid her eggs in the Sea Eagles nest. We knew that the ducklings would jump from the nest 24 hours after hatching if we actually got to hatch – which, sadly, we did not. Those ducklings could see, forage, swim, and take care of themselves without help from the parent. Daisy would, still, gather them up and protect them during the night. Fully independent of their mother, those ducklings would have been ‘precocial’. In contrast, the eaglets are not fully developed, nor are they able to feed themselves, or fly down from their nest. Indeed, they are covered with fluffy down but are unable to regulate their temperature.

It takes from ten to thirteen weeks for eaglets to fledge whereas the ducklings do this at twenty-four hours. Eagles as well as all other hawks or raptors are ‘semi-altricial’. This means that they will be dependent on their parents for everything they need until fledge. Even after fledging, the parents will teach them to hunt and will provide prey supplements for them.

Until the onset of streaming cams, there was very little quantitative information on the development of Bald Eagle Nestlings. Today, there are cameras, often more than one, on nests around the world. You can, at any time of the day, watch Bald Eagles, Peregrine Falcons, Golden Eagles etc. at your leisure. The growing community of citizen birders has impacted the knowledge of avian development and behaviour considerably. We are, indeed, continuing to learn every day. Advances in satellite transmitters means that birds can now be studied after leaving the nest providing much information about foraging, distance from natal nest to establishing their own territory, etc. This blog today is general and non-scientific in its terminology.

Many look at the development of Bald Eagles through three stages: structural growth, feather growth; and behavioural growth. Others attempt to combine feather growth with behaviour and structural development into weekly goals. In fact, I have pondered over this blog and how to approach it for several days because there are different factors that impact development. One of those is gender. There are also studies that have shown that the levels of salt in the diet impact growth while others have examined the amount and quality of prey. We know from studying Red Tail Hawks that if you double the amount of prey and the eyases remain in the nest for several days beyond the average, they are better equipped to fly and hunt. Their overall condition is much stronger. For the purposes of our discussion, I have used evidence from the NEFL Bald Eagle nest in 2021 and the SWFL Bald Eagle nest in 2021 and 2017 (E9). There is one eaglet on the NE nest and two on the SW nest in 2021. The parents on the NE Florida nest are Samson and Gabrielle. Samson was born on this nest on 23 December 2013. He is a little over seven years old. We do not know the age of Gabrielle. At the SW nest, Harriet is in her mid-twenties and M15 is 11 years old. Both nests are located within close proximity to a city – Fort Myers and St Augustine. The Fort Myers nest is unique in that the D Pritchett family has a working farm on the land where the nest is located. They also stock a pond in close proximity to the nest specifically for the eagles. This means that there is always food available. Still, the parents bring in road kill as well as fish from the pond. The NE nest does not have this advantage but nest observations reveal that there is an abundance of food although the variety might not be the same as the SW nest.

Both E17 and E18 were born on 23 January 2021. N24 was born on 8 February.

The first week of their lives, eaglets are covered with fuzzy down. The proper term is natal down. They can sit up but it is difficult to support their heads and focus. You can see the white dot indicating the egg tooth. This will disappear later. They use the egg tooth to break through the thick shell. This is often called the ‘bobble head’ phase. Their heads are big and they do not yet have the neck strength to keep them upright at all times. Their eyes are adjusting to focus. Sibling rivalry might already have started. As the days progress, the eaglets will get the strength to hold up their head and balance it. They will also be able to focus with their eyes so they do not look like they are using their beak like a dart but with a moving target (often their sibling). While the bobble head stage is very cute, it is often a relief when the eaglets are more stable.

SWFL nest 2021. Sibling rivalry began immediately. E17 is on the right and is only two hours older than the twin, E18. This rivalry persists but has dissipated to being only occasional and directly related to feeding.
The egg tooth is clearly present on the eaglet to the left.

By week two, the eaglets will be observed crawling out of the nest bowl. They are not walking. They are crawling. N24 is using its feet and wings to help it get out of the nest cup and up to the pantry. It is five days old! Food is a great motivator! Samson has the little one ‘working’ for its dinner. This helps to strengthen its wings and legs. In the Captiva Florida Eagle nest, Peace climbed out of the nest bowl towards the food on day 2. The inclines of both nests are different. The parents present the eaglets with challenges to help them develop their strength such as stretching their necks, grabbing and holding food, working their legs and wings. It’s like having your own personal trainer!

N24 crawling out of the nest cup on 13 February 2021, 5 days old

The beak will begin to grow and the little ones should begin shooting the ‘ps’ out of the nest bowl by the end of week one or beginning of week two.

N24 doing a great pose to get that PS clear of the nest. Watch out mom!

The eaglets are more observant of their world. They will have doubled in size from the day they hatched and their eyes and beak continue to develop. You will begin to notice that pin feathers are growing in at their wing tips. They will start to stand keeping their balance with these wing tips.

N24 12 days old. Notice the feathers coming in on the wing tip (left side)

More feathers begin to appear on the shoulders and the back and the wing feathers are getting longer as the days progress. They are starting to wing flap and they will try picking up food.

N24 wing flapping, 12 days old

N24 is twelve days old in the picture above and the one below. In the one below, you can also see the pin feathers right at the tip of the wing starting to come in. N24 is also standing for several seconds, getting its balance, and flapping those wings.

N24, 12 days old. Wing flapping.

During the third and fourth week, a pattern of accelerated feedings and growth begins. Head and chest are still showing signs of some fluffy down but more dark feathers are starting to emerge.

E17, SWFL Nest, Age 31 days

The eaglets are actively preening those feathers to help condition them as well as to help stop what some say is an itching as the feathers grow in. There is more wing flapping and the eaglets stand with confidence and stability. During this time you will see attempts at standing and walking. They begin to make some effort at self feeding. They are eating much more at each feeding often lunging at the parent to take the food out of their beak. Many observers say that their crops appear like they could burst! These big feedings often result in the eaglets sleeping immediately after a feeding. This is a ‘food coma’. The enlarged crops are extra storage spaces where food is held before being ‘dropped’ to the stomach. Sometimes people call this accelerated growth period the ‘clown feet’ era because the feet seem to grow way out of proportion to the rest of their body. They will also cast pellets. Pellets are food that is undigested such as fur and bones. Pellets are compressed into a hard shape and regurgitated. This often involves coughing and sometimes the eaglets appear not to want to eat the day the pellet is cast. This level of peak energy demands appears to begin to wane after about five to six weeks.

E18 has its wings dropped while sitting (eaglet on left). Crop is full. 23 February 2021.

Beginning around week five to eight, the eaglets often sit with their wings drooping (getting heavy). Hopping and flapping wings occurs more often. They are very interested in what is happening outside the nest. By the end of this period, they will begin to have more of their juvenile plumage colouration. They will be able to hold food and tear bits. They will begin to mantle food. Mantling is the covering of food with the wings in order to have the prey item to themselves. They will stand for longer periods of time and are able to walk easily by the end of the period.

From week nine to fledging. The feathers will become more defined over their entire body and they will stand for longer periods of time upright. They can stand easily on one leg. The hopping, jumping, and flapping of wings accelerates. They are self-feeding but the parents will also continue to feed them. They will now spend their nights sleeping upright like their parents with their head tucked under their wing. They can easily perch on the edge or rim of the nest and will be branching, hopping up to a branch and back down into the nest. Branching tends to occur from seven to ten days before fledging, generally.

Juvenile feathers are not all in. E9, 2017.
E9 Branching, 2017.
E9 trying out a thinner branch, 2017.

It is always exciting to see the eaglet hatch and sad when they fledge. Unless there is a transmitter or bands, they fledge and there whereabouts often goes unknown. Once they are wholly independent of their parents, the juveniles need to find their own territory and source of prey. Sadly, fifty percent of all first year eaglets perish while ninety percent of all year two eaglets tend to survive. The average age of maturity for Bald Eagles is five to six years although there is a young sub-adult male who is incubating his first eggs with his mate in Minnesota right now.

Thank you so much for joining me today. Stay safe. Be well.

Thank you to the Eagle streaming cams at NEFL and SWFL as well as the D Pritchett family. The scaps came from their streams.

Day 11 of incubation

It is noon on Daisy’s nest in the Sydney Olympic Park forest. She has started to pant as the sun shines directly on her. Like other birds, panting is a way for Daisy to regulate her temperature; she does not sweat like humans. It is, as summer days go, hot. The weather at Homebush Bay indicates that it is 34.1 degrees C. I wonder if it is actually hotter on the nest?? It is normally understood that heat rises. And, as you can see from the image below, Daisy is in direct sunlight right now. Some parts of Australia are bracing themselves for very hot weather in a few days, up to 39 degrees C.

The hot sun at high noon is shining directly on Daisy.

Many have thought that Daisy would need to take more breaks during the day as the heat builds. However, since it is 12:30 and she remains, I am thinking that she will follow her regular pattern of going off in the afternoon to forage. She has now gathered up more down to cover up the eggs from predators.

At 13:18 Daisy begins to take the down of the nest cup and fold it over inwards. Sometimes she just does this and then will turn and do her cute tail wiggle. Occasionally, she does this when she is rolling her eggs but, most often, it is a sign that she is thinking about leaving to eat. Remember, Daisy does, if all things go serenely, have a pattern of leaving the nest between 1300 and 1400 to forage. Yesterday it was 14:02. And yesterday, she returned at 16:49 but noticed both WBSE on the camera tree and aborted her landing on the nest. So, on average, if voluntarily, it appears that she takes about a two and a half to a three hour break.

In the images below, Daisy begins to tuck the down in around the egg cup. Once the down is folded onto the top of the eggs, she then goes about placing leaves and plant material, and small twigs to further disguise the location. It took her eight minutes to get everything right so that she can leave. She departed at 13:26.

Daisy is busy folding the down that lines the nest cup inward.
Very methodically she continues folding the down in a clockwise direction.
After folding the down, Daisy begins to use her bill to bring in plant material.
It is not always easy to move the leaves and twigs with her bill but Daisy is tenacious.
Once she is satisfied that the eggs are covered as best she can, she leaves to forage to keep up her strength. It is very hot in Hornbush Bay and she needs food and water.
Daisy’s nest is nicely concealed.

All birds have predators and Daisy is particularly vulnerable as she is an outsider to the forest. Her presence and her seven eggs have caught the attention of some, like the Raven and Pied Currawong, that would eat her eggs. Like Daisy’s plumage that serves as camouflage, the manner in which she has concealed her nest is meant to distract any potential threats. She has used the leaves and plant material on top. They blend in perfectly, there is absolutely nothing that would call attention. Daisy is also very discreet and alert in her comings and goings from the nest. Every move is slow and calculated unless she is frightened off by the approaching sea eagles or if she notices their arrival in another tree. Then she leaves quickly!

This is day 11 of Daisy’s brooding or incubation. Even though the eggs were laid on different days, Daisy did not start hard incubation until the last egg was in the nest. Imagine that one minute there are eggs, and within a few minutes the nest will be brimming full of peeping and clacking ducklings. This is precisely what will happen. This is known as synchronized hatching. The number of incubation days to hatching varies but is normally 28-30.

Daisy’s little ducklings – should the nest survive and they make it through the forest to the water – will be covered with fuzzy yellow down. They will have a characteristic dark chocolate brown-black line running from their bill through their eye. There are some white patches on their wings. They will be ever so cute!

Black Pacific Ducklings

Daisy’s ducklings are precocial at hatch. This means that they do not need Daisy to feed them. Daisy’s role will be to lead them to the water where they can forage themselves. Daisy will also help them to learn about predators and she will keep them warm in the evening. In a couple of months their new plumage will be that of an adult Black Pacific Duck, like Daisy.

They are known as ‘dabbling or puddle ducks’. They feed by tipping rather than diving to the bottom of the shallow water. They often forage at the edge of the river and lake like they are doing in the images below. They do not, however, hunt for food on land.

Black Pacific Ducks foraging on the shore. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Dabbling along the muddy shoreline. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
A great image of a Black Pacific Duck foraging in shallow water. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

It is due to be another hot day in the forest tomorrow. The prediction is that it will be 37 degrees Celsius. This might turn out quite well for Daisy as the White Bellied Sea Eagles could be at Goat Island enjoying the cooler weather near the water. It is 16:42 and Daisy has not returned to her nest. She will be enjoying the cool waters of the canal and the river and, since it is so hot, might decide til near dusk when it is safe for her to return to her nest. The sea eagles are normally roosting then.

An uneventful day is a good day for Daisy the Duck.

Thanks for dropping by to check on the little duck who is occupying the large sea eagle’s nest in Sydney Olympic Park forest. Stay safe everyone. See you tomorrow!

I am grateful for the Sea Eagle cam, Birdlife Australia, and the Discovery centre for the cameras they support. This is where I get my scaps.