how i overlooked this nest in the past two years i have no idea. both male and female at the nest this afternoon. nest is near the old steel bridge over the flathead river in kalispell
What to look for
Look for 2 adults on the nest. The adult pair will show pair bonding behaviors such as vocalizations, aerial sky dances, and the male feeding the female fish. You may see the pair copulating, which typically begins 14 days before laying eggs.
Females will lay 1 - 4 eggs at a rate of one egg every 1 - 2 days. After laying, incubation starts. Look for adults taking turns sitting low in the nest incubating eggs. The incubation period can last 35 - 43 days.
Chicks hatch ~39 days after incubation begins. Look for adults bringing food to the nest and making "head bows" into the center. Chicks typically can't be seen until they are 2 - 3 weeks old, so feeding behavior is the only way to know chicks are there.
Around 4 weeks after hatching, look for the heads of chicks to show over the rim of the nest, particularly when adults bring food to the nest. Other times they lie flat and are harder to see. Count the number of chicks in the nest before they learn to fly
Chicks begin flying around 7 - 8 weeks old, and are still fed by the adults. Count the number of chicks who have successfully fledged the nest and are observed flying.
Chick Last Observed
4 - 10 weeks after fledging, chicks begin leaving the nest area to migrate south, once they have learned to fly and feed themselves. Record the date that the last chick left the nest.
Look for signs of nest failure like adult abandonment, adults no longer incubating eggs or feeding young.
dc advised there are three chicks in this nest, all looking healthy, they are the furthest along in development of any nest he's observed in the valley this year. so we missed some benchmarks, but dc will note down fledge dates when they happen
chick in nest squawking. when i approached it flew off, with a fresh fish clutched in one foot. heartbreaking sight in the nest; runtley's body is clearly visible, one wing moving in the wind. still heartbroken about this little one...
one chick on nest tree branch; directly below her was a fully intact fish. threw it into the river where she could see it - she took off from nest but just did a circle around me, no attempt to retrieve fish
both fledglings in nest, food begging. may have got a photo of what looks like it could be runtley's wing. i have to wonder if she wasn't caught up in some twine/fishing line that we couldn't see and weren't allowed into the nest to check. i am so dejected
no sign of runtley this morning - unless the big chick in the nest is runtley transformed and one of the fledglings is off fishing. but i doubt it. took some photos, will look at them when i get home from lunch. an intruder overhead during the time i was there, both chicks up and screaming at it, so i know there were only two of them.
watched as #2 finally left the little branch knob he's been perched on for a week. windy day, not sure he meant to leave, and he was wobbly, but landed safely in a nearby tree. after 10 minutes or so, he flew back towards the nest, one false landing, circled around, and back onto his favorite branch. during this time #1 fledgling also landed in the nest. runtley is laying down in the nest bowl, did pick up his head to watch the activity but never stood up. it really is a blustery day, i hope he's laying low to stay out of the wind, not because he's feeling poorly.
runtley was self-feeding when i arrived, with one big sibling standing on the tree branch next to the nest. a few minutes later, the fledged chick flew into the nest, almost knocking the little guy out of it (darn), grabbed what was left of the fish and began eating it. watched a little while longer while the fledgling ate and runtley complained (nice, healthy whining); the branching chick showed no interest in the activity. got a few pix, will post when i get home - feathers may be improving?
dad in nearby tree, appears to be taking a break. mom calling from nest platform. one chick out on tree limb, one chick has fledged (still can't locate him), and the little guy is standing in the nest preening.
update: i guess he is not going to be brought down, mt fwp nixed that idea, nature taking its course, blah blah blah. we will continue to hope that he will eventually jump/fall from the nest; that's his only hope
today i observed dad bring a big fish to the nest, while mom was on a telephone pole down the path a bit, calling. one big chick and my runt were in the nest when dad arrived. i circled around the nest, nope, the other big chick is indeed gone. last night was a big windstorm, so i was a bit concerned that he might have caught air before he was ready to go, but i could not locate him. the fact that mom was not in her usual spot guarding the nest makes me think she knows where he is and was talking to him. she did not immediately return to the nest when dad brought the fish. no food calling from the big chick or the little guy while dad stood on a branch clutching his fresh fish. after about 5 minutes, mom flew back to the nest, dad dropped the fish into the bowl and flew off. the big chick showed zero interest in eating, while the little one inched his way over to mom's side of the bowl. it appeared that mom and little guy had the fish all to themselves. looks like the runt was laying down while being fed. called doug, wildlife guy, to report my observations; hopefully, he will go out and locate the fledgling.
so when i got back from the nest after talking with the retired wildlife biologist, this message from the vet at wildlife center of virginia was waiting for me:
"I’m afraid I haven’t seen this condition before in osprey admitted to the WCV however I’m always willing to take some educated guesses ?. In the ideal world, we’d have the bird in hand and could performs a series of diagnostics to get to the bottom of the situation. This is rarely practical in a free-ranging population.
Because the smaller bird is a runt, there could be congenital abnormalities that make it less likely to thrive. More commonly, runts are nestlings that are born later and are at a competitive disadvantage when it comes to acquiring food brought back to the nest. Even if it can get food, it may be the less nutritious leftovers from the bigger siblings. Regarding the feather loss, I have a few theories. Since the bird is smaller and has obviously not done as well as the larger siblings, it could be that the nest mates are picking on the smaller bird and physically pecking the feathers out. Have you been able to observe this through your monitoring efforts? This makes the most sense in my mind but the structure composition of the feathers could also be weakened by either a decreased nutritional plane or a genetic predisposition. The later is less likely as this only seems to be occurring on the neck. The other option is an ectoparasite infestation by feather lice, mites, etc. This runt could have a weakened immune system making it more likely to acquire parasites but it is odd that the feather loss is only seen on the next.
Those are my current thoughts. I hope they help to add to the discussion.
funny thing, my wildlife biologist had just finished telling me that he was leaning towards lice or mites, which apparently tend to concentrate on the weakest chick and leave the others alone. so that's where it stands. doug, the biologist, has already talked to the power company and the fish, wildlife and parks people about getting a bucket truck to the nest in the next few days. it looks like the two biggest are close to fledging, after which i think the plan is to bring him down, take him into rehab for treatment, then they have an osprey 'compound' where they have successfully fledged chicks in the past.
if i'm not making sense it's because i'm dead tired, but i'm also so relieved that help might be just a few days away.
wildlife biologist and osprey expert is monitoring this nest. he stated that he's never seen such a size difference among siblings of the same clutch, and he's been involved with ospreys since the 70s. he will be taking his scope to the nest later this week to try and determine what's what. it's a relief to have some real expertise monitoring the situation.
i checked the nest this morning at 7:00 a.m. the oldest chick was self-feeding, the 2nd oldest was watching, the little guy was in a corner with his back turned to the activity. now that the older chicks are beginning to self-feed, and mom's not really paying attention, it looks even bleaker for my runt. i will keep watching and hoping i'm there if/when he leaves the nest.
well i'll be, we still have 3 chicks in this nest - 2 large, 1 small. got a few photos of the runt, will post when i get home. mother was in nest with her brood until an intruder flew over, she left the nest to give chase, all three chicks curious and watching. i was quite surprised to see the biggest nestling right next to the smallest, with no beat-down going on at all. now i'm fretting about the littlest one being left behind next month :-(
observed one very hot mombrella with one very hot chick underneath. i'm starting to think i'm deliberately picking the hottest part of the day, knowing i won't see much activity, but i can tell myself that i'm still doing my job. i don't want to see any suffering, which i would if i observed a fish delivery to 2 big and 1 way-too-little chick. it's been so darn hot, i don't hold out much hope that he is still alive. the fact that i can barely see one chick these last few visits means there probably aren't three...
well another mombrella day, could see at least one big chick under her, probably two. no little runt head popped up to look at me today, either. i dread checking this nest, praying for the little guy wherever he may be :-(
all 3 chicks accounted for. the littlest one looks half the size of the other two, i'm very worried about him. a couple days of cooler temps, then back to the 90s. praying like heck that dad catches whoppers every day so the 3rd chick can survive
hopeful news, both at nest. walked gently underneath the nest, neither got too upset, a little chirping at me. found part of a broken egg shell. mom busy fussing in nest bowl, but no sign of chicks. mom is wet, like she just got done fishing or bathing; dad is dry. after about 10 minutes, dad flew off, mom continued fussing in nest.
maybe i'm picking the wrong time of day to observe this nest, but something isn't looking right. i observed for 40 minutes: mom in nest, looking around for dad, mom leaves nest and perches on dad's nearby tree limb, mom flies off and returns a few minutes later to the nest to resume her nervous brooding/incubation. no sign of any chicks in the nest nor dad. it has been rainy and cold these past few days, fishing might be difficult, but mom does not appear very happy right now (and neither am i)
i'm concerned about this nest. when i arrived the nest was empty of adults, then in flew mom with a tiny stick to add to the nest, after which she resumed incubation and/or chick warming? no sign of dad, and it was cold today, mid-50's. no little bobbleheads popped up to greet mom's return, either. i will check again tomorrow.
after a full week of heavy rain, winds, and just-above freezing temps, i ventured out to check my nests. i watched dad bring a fish to his nearby perch, but mom didn't food-call or even get up, so i don't think she has any chicks under her yet, although we are definitely in the hatch window now...see pix
both birds at nest this afternoon. since no sign of the osprey pair that uses a very scary nest overhanging the road about a mile west of this spot, i'm hoping this is them and they decided to move;
i worry too much about that other nest...