The osprey

Thu, 07/02/2020 - 6:45pm

Block Island has always been a wonderful spot to go birding, not only because the island is an important stopover during migration, but due to the many species that live here.

At the Block Island School, we are following the tradition started by Elizabeth Dickens, who began the bird program at the School in the early 1900s. We are grateful to Kim Gaffett for continuing it.

Each year, Mrs. Szabo includes a bird unit in her fourth grade class, and asks her students to choose a bird they think will best make the “Block Island Bird of the Year.” Through nature walks, bird banding with Miss Gaffett, and research, each student chose a bird they believe best represents Block Island.

This is the fourth in a series.

The great osprey lives mainly in coastal areas, along rivers and lakes, which is why you may see them on Block Island. This awesome bird can also be found in Alaska, Canada, and in most of the northern hemisphere. The osprey is very smart and unique, and capable of catching fish with a special technique called a power dive. You may see them diving for fish when waiting on the ferry in Old Harbor.

inches tall and has a wingspan of 63 inches wide. It also has long narrow wings, a white body, slight crest, dark wristband secondaries, gray feet, and weighs about three-and-a-half pounds. The osprey (Pandion Haliaetus) also called the sea sawk, river hawk,” or “fish hawk,” is a diurnal fish-eating bird of prey. They are the only hawks in North America that have a diet of mostly live fish. It dives to catch its prey feet-first. It can dive from up to 100 feet from the air. When it catches the fish with its claws it adjusts the fish headfirst so it is parallel with its body, making it easier to fly with it.

Ospreys build their nest out of large sticks, and place them on top of platforms such as telephone poles and large tree trunks. This bird lays between one and four eggs, incubates them for about 36 to 42 days, and they are usually cared for by the female. Eggs are pinkish or cinnamon colored, and are about two inches by three inches. Eight weeks after hatching, the chicks leave the nest. When visiting Block Island, you can usually see a large osprey nest in the ferry parking lot in Point Judith, as well as at the Block Island Power Company.

Small but mighty, just like our little Island, the osprey makes a good representation for Block Island.