Fish for Friday—and Every Day!

Osprey in flight, carrying a fish in its talons, arranged aerodynamically

While Mama Olive waits on the nest, Poppa Oscar the Osprey brings home the bac—er, fish!

Although I can’t be certain this is the spouse of the Osprey shown below, I’d bet you a fish dinner they’re mates. I took this photo less than a half mile from the nest—maybe a quarter mile as the Osprey flies.

Note this Osprey carries his prey lengthwise—aerodynamically!

Like other raptors, Ospreys have feet equipped with three talons apiece: two in front and a third, called the hallux, to the rear.

Ospreys, however, have an additional advantage. Like Owls, they can also rotate a front talon to the rear while flying! This can be highly useful when you’ve just snatched a squirming, still-very-much-living prey from ground or water. Look at the rearmost foot of this Osprey, and you can see he’s done exactly this: he’s rotated his hallux to the front and his front talon to the rear, so he can carry the fish lengthwise.

Plus, if you’re an Osprey, your prey is often much longer than wide—and it’s especially advantageous to rotate a wriggling fish lengthwise, while digging your dagger-like hallux into its heart.

This canny adaptation must also be an evolutionary advantage, allowing the bird to conserve energy, fly faster and survive longer—so I’m a bit surprised more raptors don’t do this.

Intelligent as well as beautiful, Ospreys happily seem a bit less of a rarity along the DelMarVa coastline. Still, their comeback is so recent that I see them far less often than, say, Bald Eagles.

If I’ve identified this Osprey correctly, he and his mate are nesting on a manmade platform erected just a year ago. I watched the structure go up late last March—and I believe it was just a morning or two later that an Osprey couple contributed sticks and set up their nest here.

I like to think last year’s occupants may be the very same Ospreys we see here now. The current nesters arrived on the platform’s one-year anniversary!

Female Osprey nesting on man-made platform, Lighthouse Cove, Fenwick Is;and, Delaware
“Hurry up!” cries Mama Olive, whom I presume to be Oscar’s mate. “It’s freaking cold for April and I’m hungry!”

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