Osprey Feeding at Fort Pickens | Pensacola Beach Florida
Fort Pickens at Pensacola Beach, Florida is part of the Gulf Island National Seashore. It is my favorite place to observe osprey. The osprey population is abundant and their nests are easily seen. Because they build nests around the park, I believe they are a little more tolerable to people watching their behaviors.
I was walking around a nesting area and noticed an osprey eating a fish. I took some pictures of it and then backed off because I could tell I was stressing it out some. This time of year with chicks on the nest I didn't want to upset the bird and cause it to drop the fish. With its sharp talons I know this would probably not happen but I still didn't want the osprey to waste any energy. Just as I was backing away another osprey flew over head with a Spanish mackerel catch.
After that I heard some noise above and looked up to see an osprey perched in a pine tree above me with a fresh pompano fish catch. The fish was still alive and the osprey was keeping it pressed against the branch. I was well within the normal comfort zone for the typical osprey. It knew I was there but didn't move from the branch. I'm guessing this osprey is used to having people around and just didn't want to expend the energy to move unless it had to.
I have observed osprey nesting for a few years and I noticed that most times the parent will bring a half-eaten fish to the nest. I always wondered why and observing this osprey I now think I know. With small chicks on the nest a big fish flopping around could cause havoc in a nest. Osprey start eating at the head of the fish so this would kill the fish. The head also has quick fleshy areas like eyeballs, gills, and the throat which make for quick and easy food sources to get energy for more fishing attempts. The rest of the fish is tougher to eat so that is dropped off to the attending parent and babies. The times I have noticed whole fish brought to the nest are when the chicks are larger is size so I imagine the parents use this as a teaching example to handle struggling fish.
See also: Spring Nesting
Keywords: fort pickens osprey, gulf coast osprey, gulf shores photographer, nesting osprey, osprey feeding, pensacola beach photographer
awesome pics of an awesome bird.I watch them while fishing. Last year I watched one nab a Spanish mack and fly over to a road sign and start eating. Your explanation solved a mystery for me . wanted to kill it before going to the nest
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