Four baby ospreys find new home on Marco Island

Ann Hall
After a five-week vacation away from his Isles of Capri home, Jim Hughes returned home to find four chicksin the nest that had been built by a returning osprey and her new husband.

Upon returning to his home on the Isles of Capri from a five-week vacation, long-time resident Jim Hughes was treated to a welcome surprise.

He found that “his ospreys,” as he calls them had four babies in their nest.

“I have seen two and three born to them over the years, but never four!” exclaimed Hughes.

A Guide to the Birds of Paradise

When an old tree that once was home to several local ospreys finally succumbed to disease and was felled in the summer of 2012, Capri resident Jim Hughes felt compelled to try and find a new home for his feathered friends.

He read of FPL’s program to help create nesting areas for osprey in part to keep these magnificent birds of prey from building nests atop power poles and causing fires and power outages.

Within a few months, at Hughes request, his beloved osprey couple had a new nesting place near the shoreline of Pompano Bay directly behind his home. FPL staff crafted a 45-foot pole bolted to an aluminum platform and attached it to a piling sunk to a depth of seven feet. Two crewmen assembled the unit and tied sticks to the platform to attract the osprey.

“The FPL crewmen told me it would take at least a year for the birds to find their way to the new nest,” said Hughes, “but within two days the first osprey came to inspect the new nesting platform.” “I knew it was the same pair because they hung around on my dock after the tree came down and all the while the FPL crew was building the new nesting pole,” Hughes said. “It has been a glorious sight watching this pair grow a new family of little ones each year. Even before the new FPL nesting area, my wife and I watched them in the Norfolk Island Pine tree for years.

“It was if the birds understood that we would not leave them high and dry when their tree house nest had to come down,” said Hughes.

Sanibel osprey pole ruffles neighbor's feathers

The FPL osprey nesting structure behind Hughes’ home has been the new high-rise nest to the same osprey couple since August 2012. These beautiful birds became a major subject for Hughes’ photography hobby.

“I love sharing my photos with others who may not be in the spot to snap a picture, or even see what I see,” said Hughes.

“It was a sad day in the spring of 2014, when the male bird was electrocuted on a nearby power line. I had taken so many good photos of him. I even named him ‘Bothered,’ because he always looked that way when he was eating his catch.

“Bothered” is the name given by Jim Hughes to this handsome male osprey who was eventually electrocuted on a power line near his home in the summer of 2014.

“It was heartbreaking to know that his mate would be without him and I wondered if the female would ever come this way again,” said Hughes.

The irony in this is that Hughes also lost his dear wife, Ellie, that same year.

According to The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, ospreys usually mate for life, but after the loss of a mate some will “remarry.”

Such was the case for the female left behind in this situation. In January, 2016 the female had taken on a new relationship.

“I saw her and a new male mating on two occasions before I left for my extended vacation this spring, but never would I have thought that I would be returning home to a family of four baby chicks,” Hughes said.

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Bird lovers flock to watch magnificent osprey

Osprey facts

Cornell Lab of Ornithology website offers numerous facts about the Osprey.

* Average lifespan is 15 to 20 years, during which time they also may log in more than 160,000 migration miles. Scientists tracked one osprey that flew 2,700 miles during a 13 day span of time.

* Excellent anglers, catching fish on at least one in every four dives, with success rates sometimes as high as 70 percent, and time making a catch was about 12 minutes—something to think about next time you throw your line.

* Builds nests on manmade structures, such as telephone poles, channel markers, duck blinds, and nest platforms designed especially for it such as the FPL platform in this story. Such platforms have become important in reestablishing Ospreys in areas where they have disappeared.

* Osprey eggs do not hatch all at once, but rather over a period of up to five days with the first hatchling dominating the younger siblings and when food is scarce, younger ones may starve to death.

* Physical characteristics such as reversible outer toes, closable nostrils, backwards-facing scales on the talons, and dense plumage help the Osprey survive.

Wild File: Osprey