Bill Dunson, born in rural Georgia, skipped 12th grade and went directly to Yale. He subsequently received his PhD in Zoology from the University of Michigan. Bill is Professor Emeritus of Pennsylvania State University, thanks to a career spent teaching and researching the physiological ecology and ecotoxicology of reptiles, amphibians and fish. Bill has dedicated his life to learning and sharing his knowledge with others. Join him as he observes our better nature on the Island, his newest home.
Sunday, January 17, 2016
Osprey Murder Update
Female osprey returns after mate is killed.
After the discovery of the head of one of our beloved nesting ospreys on our front walk on Jan. 14, I surmised that a pair of great horned owls had killed it in the process of taking over the osprey nest. This is an update to report on observations at the nest during the first day after this gruesome discovery.
Great horned owl eating male osprey
The surviving osprey is a female based on the dark markings on her breast, so the male must have been killed. Although the killer(s) were assumed to be great horned owls, this became definitive when an owl flew to the nest site in the evening of Jan. 14 and began eating the body of the male osprey which was hanging in the Norfolk Island pine just below the nest. My photo illustrates the face of the owl and the extended wing of the dead osprey below and to the right. The female osprey flew close to the owl and repeatedly harassed it; the owl responded with bill snapping.
Female osprey returns to nest
The widowed female osprey returned to the nest site during the day of Jan. 15, but vocalized hardly at all, which is quite unusual. In the late afternoon she perched on top of the pine and called, seemingly in defiance of the owls and the loss of her mate. She flapped her wings and suddenly another osprey (sex unknown) flew by and she followed it.
The owls were calling that evening but have not yet taken residence in the nest.
Tune in for future updates to this fascinating story!