A sound of summer. Have you heard it yet? The tidewaters of Lower New York Bay has some 30 or more active Osprey nests, each with 1 to 3 young. By July the bay comes alive with these young-of-the-year Ospreys. They want to an adult fish hawk bad.
Young Ospreys are maturing fast. As I write this, the adolescent birds are learning how to fly or fledge, which means to fly from the nest for the first time. These big baby birds are quite active, preening and exercising their wings. You can see these unripe Ospreys flapping and fluttering their wings, and hopping up and down in the nest. Just like any teenager, they can't wait to be on their own.
The parents know it's time to teach their children well. Their offspring have reached the age when mom and dad need show what it takes to be an adult hawk.
First to go is the feeding. Mom and dad no longer feed their young, but merely drop a fish in the nest for the chicks to feed themselves.
Next comes the flying. The young Ospreys must summon the courage to frantically flap their wings, touch the air, and trust that they will not fall down. If all goes well, soon the young Ospreys will begin to make attempts to catch a fish for themselves when they have improved their fishing and flying skills. Some parents might even place a fish on a nearby branch for a struggling young Osprey to make every effort to fly over and take it.
These youngsters stay in the company of their parents throughout August and early September. From time to time, they will be taught the finer points of flying, hunting, and what it takes to be Fish Hawk.
Both girls and boys are every bit the size of their mom and dad by now. Young Ospreys are about two feet tall with a five foot wingspan. The major difference between adults and offspring is the color of the plumage. Immature Ospreys are lighter brown on the back and wings with white specks on the edges of the feathers that give a rough, crusty appearance.
It's great to see all this new life around Lower New York Bay. Of course it wasn't always like this. Ospreys were nearly wiped out and uncommon for most of the 20th century by the effects of habitat loss, water pollution, and DDT.
The sight of these baby birds calling and flapping is a clear sign of the improved habitat for Ospreys to survive and raise a family in Lower New York Bay and its tributaries. More work needs to be done though. We need to preserve and restore additional habitat on the way to ensure that Ospreys return to these urban tidal water for generations to come.
For more information, pictures, videos, and year-round sightings of wildlife in or near Sandy Hook Bay, please check out my blog entitled, Nature on the Edge of New York City at http://natureontheedgenyc.blogspot.com/