Block Island is lucky enough to be the home of a nesting pair of Osprey. This Osprey nest has been occupied by nesting pairs for a few years now, and the OVF's own Kim Gaffett (with the help of Erica Simkin, a young bird enthusiast and part-time EcoWorker) has had the opportunity to band almost all of the Osprey chicks hatched here.
Osprey, or Pandion haliaetus, are large fish-eating hawks that are usually found near a coastline. A full grown adult can weigh anywhere from three to four pounds and has an average wingspan of five feet. Other identifying features include a hooked beak and curled talons. Although their plumage can vary between individuals, they all have a deep brown stripe on the side of the face going through the eye.
Osprey are skilled hunters. With a diet primarily consisting of fish, osprey are able to dive into the water from a height of up to 130 feet! Usually, they will grab the fish at a horizontal orientation and while in flight, using an opposable outer toe, they rotate their catch to allow for better aerodynamics in flight. Their specialized feet also have sharp spines on the soles for a better grasp of their prey. Male Osprey are the primary hunter for the osprey family, while the female tends to remain at the nest.
Osprey mate for life. They are very adaptable birds and nest in both natural and artificial structures. They begin breeding in mid-spring. The eggs are incubated for about 40 days. Chicks fledge in the early summer when they are about 2 months old. For the next three weeks they tend to remain close to the nesting site and depend on their parents for food.
Osprey are said to be an indicator of health and productivity of an ecosystem. If an area is polluted, animals that hold lower positions in the food chain will digest small amounts of the pollutant. Osprey, an animal that is quite high on the food chain, will accumulate more toxins in their bodies as they ingest more of the toxin through prey that is lower on the food chain. This phenomenon is commonly known as bio-accumulation. Larger animals are able to effectively determine the condition of the natural environment in which they inhabit. Therefore an area with a low or declining population should be investigated for a potential environmental issue. So, let's keep Block Island clean and free of pollutants, so that we can have many more nesting pairs of this extraordinary bird on the island!
*All of the above information was gleaned from friendoftheosprey.org. Feel free to check out their site by clicking here.