Last weekend during our “walk for wildlife” we had an urgent call from an eye witness to rescue a bird that had just “fallen from the sky”.
Two bald eagles were performing aerial acrobatics above the Courtenay ambulance station over the river when all of a sudden another bird, described as a hawk, flew in between the eagles, a move that almost turned out to be a fatal mistake. The male eagle immediately broke contact with its mate and attacked the “hawk” slashing out with its talons and knocking the hawk out of the air onto the ground. Quick thinking by Nigel Chapman, an eye witness who remembered that we had our walk in progress, saved this bird’s life.
The “hawk” turned out to be a very beautiful osprey, a bird that is rarely seen as a patient at the wildlife centre; in fact the last time we cared for one was in 2004. These birds are found worldwide with the exception of Antarctica, and are usually found along the shorelines of oceans, rivers and lakes.
Ospreys do migrate in the winter mainly due to the fact that 99 per cent of their diet consists of fish which tend to swim deeper in the winter months. On first appearance, the osprey does resemble a hawk in size but once it spreads its wings a much larger bird is revealed. These raptors sport a six foot wingspan with exceptionally long flight feathers; these feathers are different from other raptors as they are very brittle and are prone to breaking off at the tips. The brittle feathers are a result of the stiff inflexible oil that is produced for preening, this oil is necessary for waterproofing the birds’ feathers as they submerge under water whilst capturing prey. Long wings give them the ability to hover over the water when zeroing in on unsuspecting prey.
Unlike any other raptor, their method of hunting also makes them unique; they will plunge feet first into the water submerging their entire body before emerging out of the water. Talons are “dinner catchers” for the osprey and their talons are razor sharp; another key component to their fishing prowess is their eyesight.
They have both telescopic and binocular vision and their eyesight is eight times more powerful than ours, they do not have the bony “sun-shades” above their eyes like eagles. Ospreys have slender hooked beaks and are much daintier eats than the eagles; taking much longer to enjoy their meal, this makes them more vulnerable to “pirates” such as crows, ravens and eagles that will blatantly try and steal their food. Ospreys prefer to make their nests in very open areas, locally they can be seen along the river and estuaries.
The Osprey recued by M.A.R.S. sustained a deep gash in its upper chest from the eagles’ talon, fortunately X-Ray’s revealed no major organs were involved and the wound was cleaned and sutured.
Ospreys do very poorly in captivity due to their feeding habits. It is hoped that the osprey will make a speedy recovery and will be released having learnt a hard lesson, not to tangle with eagles in the future.
Thanks again to all those who supported and sponsored the walk we raised over $2,600 for wildlife rehabilitation.
To report injured or abandoned wildlife, please call 1-800-304-9968, for all other calls, 250-337-2021.