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The osprey at Ririe reservoir could use a visit from Chip and Joanna Gaines

Living the Wild Life

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Photos courtesy Bill Schiess |

As I was leaving Ririe Reservoir this week, an osprey appeared to be racing me when I noticed a silvery Kokanee in its talons. I knew it was headed for its nest near the dam with lunch for his lady in waiting. I sped up, but was no match for the speedy fish hawk as he landed and started feeding the nesting female.

It did not take them long to devour the small salmon, and she sent him off fishing again with a shill “thanks for the appetizer, now go get me some real food” call as she settled back on her eggs. As she disappeared behind the rim of the nest, I decided to see how long it would take for him to return.

In the warm sun I dozed off only to be rudely awakened by her scolding as he flew by, landing on another power pole to eat the head off the bass he had caught. Once the head was mostly gone, he brought the nutrient rich body to feed her. He would tear off chunks of flesh, hold it in his beak while she would gently take it from him. After some of the exchanges of food between the two, they would bump closed beaks that appeared to be a bird “kiss.” Other times, she would scrap the left-overs off his beak with her sharp-pointed beak.

They had a problem with their house. They had not hired the Property Brothers or the Boise Boys to remodel their home and one of them had placed an old dried up thistle stalk about three feet long on the top of the nest. The rising stiff breeze kept blowing the decoration into them, interrupting their meal. Obviously frustrated with the decorative plant, it was finally deposited over the side of the nest.

Ospreys have become one of the most successful nesting raptors in eastern Idaho. Platforms built throughout the valley for the ospreys to nest on have made nesting easy for them. Their bad habit of using baling twine to help build their nests cause a health hazard for both chicks and adults.

Also known as the fish hawk or sea eagle, these specialized fishers are well equipped for capturing the fish of the Upper Snake River Valley.

These raptors, with a wing span from five to six feet, have the ability to hover in the air, and locate a fish before a dive. During the dive, they position their entry into the water feet first with their eyes glued on the target. By rotating their outside claw from facing forward to face back, they grasp their prey with two claws on each side. Sharp spines or spicules on their feet also help in holding the slippery, wiggling fish.

Their compact, oily feathers and their ability to close their nostrils with a membrane, allow them to dive up to three feet under the water. At times, they appear to struggle getting airborne after grasping their prey. This is usually due to the weight of the fish. Once in the air, their talons are strong enough to hold the fish with one foot so they can rotate the fish so the head is always facing forward while being transported.

Pairs usually mate for life and will nest in the same nest year after year. The male will feed the female most of the time during courtship and while raising the young. The better quality of the food delivered, the stronger the bond becomes between the pair. The males will almost always eat the head of prey captured before delivering it to its mate.

If any of you are professional decorators, there is a pair of ospreys near Ririe Reservoir that could use a little help. They may show you where you can catch some fish as payment.