Our young Osprey chick is 26 days old today and thriving- showing all the signs of completely normal and healthy behaviour and development.
To recap some questions about the chick we’ve had so far, and a few new ones:
Q: What Gender is the chick?
A: The short answer is that we don’t know yet if it is male or female. There is no ‘external plumbing’ in birds, and in Ospreys no clear difference in plumage (unlike say in ducks) so clues are very small. Generally female Ospreys will end up 30% larger than the males but in chicks with different ages and feeding, this can be misleading as an older well fed male may be larger than a poorly nourished or younger female. Experts can usually tell at ringing if the chick has thicker legs that it is a female- but the only way to be 100% sure is a DNA test, or waiting for 3 years to see its behaviour at mating!
Q: Will we be naming the chick?
A: We don’t generally have a policy of naming our wild Ospreys but usually, when chicks are ringed, they are given the name suggested by their Darvic ring’s (coloured leg band) unique combination of letters and numbers.
Q: Will be still be ringing and satellite tagging the chick?
A: We are still hoping to be able to satellite tag and ring our single chick this year, but are awaiting expert advice from Roy Dennis who is booked to do this for us. Obviously it is more interesting and scientifically representative to do more than one chick from a nest at a time, but obviously we are still keen to take this opportunity to tag one of our famous female’s offspring whilst we still can. We will keep you up to date with the plans for tagging, which would be done in early July.
Q: Will the chick get too big to fit under mum? Why is she still sitting on it?
A: Our single chick is getting so big it hardly fits under his mother- though the female will continue to use her body to shield it from the weather and keep it warm until it is fully feathered and more waterproof- otherwise it could still die of exposure.
Q: Why is the chick moving things around the nest?
A: The chick is now highly mobile and is having a go at moving sticks around the nest just like mum and dad- this sort of activity where it mimics the adults behavior, is play ,but essential in building healthy muscles and coordination.
Q: Is the chicks getting enough to eat?
A: Yes it is getting more than enough- in fact it is much bigger than many osprey chicks at this age. The male has been bringing in around four fish a day which is enough for mum and baby , and neither of them has been begging or calling for food, and have often not finished their meals so obviously aren’t hungry.
Q: Are the chicks’ wings ok – they seem to hang down?
A: yes the wings are fine- just developing, and at this stage are big and clumsy. The muscles required to arch them are only just developing- you will see lots more of the chick stretching and practicing with these from now on.
Q: Are the chicks feet ok – it seems to walk on its heels?
A: Yes this is normal for a very young chick, and in fact just a couple of days ago the wee one started to use its feet properly and stand with its toes and talons splayed- an important milestone.
Q: Can the chick fall out of the nest?
A: This can sometimes happen, but the parent birds have built up the sides of the nest to prevent this. In fact it is more common at around 6 weeks when the larger chicks are a bit too much in a hurry to fledge and ‘play’ on the nest edge, practicing their wing beats- I have had to rescue a chick who fell off the nest at this stage and couldn’t quite fly or return to the nest, and would otherwise have died.
Q: What can we expect next for the chick?
A: Well, more rapid growth and a chick that in another week or so, will look more like a mini osprey with brown speckled feathers rather than reptilian grey down. Its legs and feet will gain coordination next and in a couple of weeks will be able to stand properly flat footed, rather than resting on its ‘heels’ or shanks as it does at the moment, though it wont be able to grip and grasp well until about 6-7 weeks. From around this time young ospreys will also begin to start exercising their wings and building the muscles necessary for their first flight, with fledging at around 7-8 weeks of age.
By around 12-14 weeks our young chick will be fully independent and ready to migrate for the first time- lets all keep fingers crossed it makes it to these next milestones as safely as it has so far!