Our Ospreys continue to delight and surprise us with lots of fascinating behavior, and the chick’s incredibly rapid development. This phenomenal growth spurt, whereby the chick will be almost adult size by five to six weeks old, is fuelled by its very high protein fish diet. With so much fish arriving at this nest this year (the male has been brining in very large pike and trout especially) it is no wonder this wee one has a slightly faster than normal growth rate.
Our Osprey chick was three weeks old last night and this means it is through the most vulnerable period of its development when it is most vulnerable to exposure and predators- lets hope its safe journey to adulthood continues!
What can we expect next? 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!
Osprey Q and A:
Q: Will the other eggs now hatch, and if not, what will happen to them?
A: No there is now no chance that the remaining two eggs will hatch as they are both well overdue and are damaged, the female is no longer brooding them full time. We do not know how long the female will tolerate their presence in the nest- she may remove or bury them deep in the nest material.
Q: Why are the ospreys still adding to their nest – it’s already huge! Hasn’t it changed shape a bit recently?
A: The Ospreys instinct to add to the nest is strong, and they parents are also making sure the sides are higher to contain a more mobile youngster. Osprey nest always change shape slightly as the season goes on- deeper in the center early on to stop eggs rolling about and to keep them warmer, and then wider and more platform like as the chicks get bigger and need more room.
Q: Hasn’t it been a dramatic and bad year for Ospreys in the UK so far?
A: It is too early to say what the overall breeding success rate of UK ospreys this year is yet. Certainly at many of the high profile and public sites, this year has seen a lot of change and drama: A new male here at Loch of the Lowes; a new male and a single chick in the Lake District; Nest failure in two of the three Dumfries and Galloway nests; Multiple ospreys at one nest at RSPB Loch Garten: and of course the recent heartbreak at Dyfi Osprey Project in Wales, with the loss of two of their three chicks.
In an ospreys breeding lifetime, there are some good and bad years, and this is a normal part of the natural variation due to weather etc. Obviously with a bird making a comeback from local extinction as the UK Osprey is, every bird is precious, and every chick a welcome addition, so we hope every year is successful, but this is not always the case. It does not however, bode anything especially untoward- just bad luck.