Osprey Family Thrives in Face of Adversity

Ospreys returned again this year to nest at Alameda Point’s Seaplane Lagoon.  But midway through the rearing process, the female became the sole provider and protector of her three chicks, after the male became entangled in fishing line.  Such osprey single parenting is unheard of.

Male osprey with fishing line and bobber. Credit: Phil Dauber.

The nest on an old Navy light stand at the entrance to the Seaplane Lagoon is familiar to the ospreys, having raised young here before.  The crown of sticks has become part of the fixture, decorated by the ospreys with “arts and crafts” bits of fabric and string.

The osprey adults were first seen by osprey watchers feeding the unseen chicks deep in the nest on May 20, and two weeks later three wobbly chicks were seen popping their heads up within view.

All was going well until June 19.  On that day, the male returned from a foraging trip empty-handed.  With his legs wrapped in fishing line and a red and white bobber dangling in the wind, he flew over the nest making eye contact with his mate.  This remarkable and heart-wrenching scene was captured in a photo by local photographer and boater Phil Dauber, who was aboard his boat observing the ospreys.  The male was never seen again.

With the male gone, the young chicks were vulnerable to attack by other birds and intrusions into the nest to retrieve fish scraps while the female was gone.  But the female quickly stepped up her game.  “The female would not allow other birds near the nest, and it would seem that her authority was soon accepted by neighboring birds,” said Leora Feeney with Golden Gate Audubon Society in her journal chronicling the nesting saga.

“Her trips to forage were short: usually less than 10 to 15 minutes,” said Feeney.   “While gone, the young would be deep in the bowl of the nest out of sight.  She would sometimes return to the nest to check on the young (it seemed) without fish and leave again, returning later with a catch.”

Osprey fledgling on fence erected by city to keep people off of the jetty where the osprey nest is located.

By late July, the three healthy fledglings were standing tall in the nest, and by mid-August they were off on a life of their own.

This is not the first time an osprey has suffered a mishap with fishing line in Alameda.  Several years ago, residents of Ballena Isle were walking along a boat dock in the harbor and noticed an osprey floating in the water tangled in fishing line.  They were able to scoop up the osprey and clip off the fishing line.  After a short time of rest on the dock, the osprey flew away.

Originally published in the Alameda Sun.

Two osprey fledglings on fence on west side of Seaplane Lagoon – 2018.

Author: richard94501

My blog is Alameda Point Environmental Report covering environmental issues from wildlife to cleanup at the former Navy base in Alameda now called Alameda Point. Articles on my blog are frequently printed in the Alameda Sun newspaper. I also host a Twitter site and a Flickr photo site. I hope you find my stories and photos of interest. Richard Bangert Alameda, California

3 thoughts on “Osprey Family Thrives in Face of Adversity”

  1. We had a similar situation in Calgary, Alberta, Canada a few years ago although our male Osprey was not killed in such a tragic way. After a horrible hailstorm which caused milllions of dollars of damage in the city, the male Osprey was not seen again. Hailstones were as big as golf balls and broke skylights and car windshields. The mother stayed on the nest throughout the storm cover her three young chicks. The mother, who we named Supermom, cared for the young ospreys over the season after the dad disappeared and brought back many fish and fought off intruders. She was incredible. All of it was watched on camera as, at the time, there was a camera on the nest.


    1. The Calgary story is the only other we know of and would, combined with Alameda’s offer some hope for others who might suffer the loss of the mate from an active Osprey nest. Wonder if a male would have managed being a single parent. Thank you for sharing. Any other experiences out there? And thank you, Richard, for telling the story.
      Leora Feeney


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