Osprey nest towers over bridge users in Fredericton

·3 min read
One of the nest's inhabitants looks over its territory on Thursday. (Shane Fowler/CBC - image credit)
One of the nest's inhabitants looks over its territory on Thursday. (Shane Fowler/CBC - image credit)

A pair of ospreys have landed on Fredericton as the place to raise their chicks.

Drivers in Fredericton may have noticed the large nest on a street light towering above the Princess Margaret Bridge at Forest Hill Road.

The nests are often found in places humans also call home, according to Alain Clavette, an ornithology teacher and columnist based in New Brunswick.

"About 79 to 80 per cent of nests of ospreys nowadays are built on manmade structures," he said.

Ospreys like to be able to see everything in their territory, Clavette said, so he's not surprised they chose to make a home on the tall lamppost.

In particular, ospreys need to be able to see their fishing grounds from the nest, Clavette said. The parents can be seen routinely bringing fish from the nearby St. John River to their home.

This homemaking strategy is in contrast to bald eagles, another North American bird of prey, he said. They prefer a more secluded stay in somewhere like the canopy of a forest.

Looking at the nest, observers should be able to tell who's the mom and who's the dad, he said. The mother is a bit more colourful than the male, sporting dusty lines across the chest.

"She's also bigger than the male, which is always the case in birds of prey," Clavette said. "The females are the boss of the family."

Earning their wings

In New Brunswick, young ospreys usually leave the nest sometime around mid-August, Clavette said. Though it's different for every nest, the timeline depends on when the incubation period begins, he said.

Once the young ones are ready to take flight, they'll have had some practice.

To work on their wings, ospreys make use of one of their most powerful muscles — their talons. The fledglings will clamp onto a sturdy branch and spread their wings, he said, making use of the ample wind available in such an open spot to practise.

"Almost like if they're trying to lift the nest up in the air," he said.

Shane Fowler/CBC
Shane Fowler/CBC

Sometimes, the young birds will take off and land back on the nest.

Eventually, there will be some parental encouragement.

"The parents, when they know that they're ready to fly, will come and tease them with a fish," Clavette said. "They'll show them that they have a fish in their talons and it's going to be like, 'If you want it, you got to follow me.'"

The state of the species in N.B. 

These days, the bird is more common in the province than it was in the 1980s or '90s, according to Clavette.

The bird is currently designated as "secure," according to the provincial database of species and status, which says it was last assessed in 2006. This designation means a species is widespread and any decline in its population is not felt to be a threat to its status in the province.

The broad presence of the bird in New Brunswick isn't the case everywhere, Clavette said.

"I had the chance to do some birding with people from England, for example. And they were astonished at the amount of ospreys that we have in the area," he said. "We tend to take them for granted in New Brunswick, but we're kind of lucky."

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting