Osprey Nest Update: Heat Advisory

Today, July 6, 2012 is what the meteorologists at the Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang are calling the “longest, strongest” heat wave in DC history. Nine straight days of 95+ heat. Click here for details.

Although temperatures are approximately 3-5 degrees cooler at the nest (which is near the Chesapeake Bay), the heat is absolutely distressing Herself and Himself and their two surviving chicks.

That’s why we reached out to experts the world renown Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the nearby Smithsonian Environment Research Center to see if there’s anything we can do to help.  The word back from several birding authorities is an encouraging, yet firm, no!

“Encouraging” in that the Osprey have adapted to high heat during their evolution. And “firm” in the passionate plea (which we are following) to not disturb the nest in any way.

Excerpts as follows:

Alan F. Poole, editor of Birds of North America (BNA), Cornell Lab of Ornithology:  Ospreys have been suffering in Chesapeake heat for centuries, and I’m sure they’ll do fine – even those chicks he’s worried about.  Whatever happens, leave them in the nest!  Probably not as bad as it looks.  Female often shades them during high heat –surprised that’s not happening now. maybe the chicks are too big.

Robert Gallagher, Executive Officer, SERC:  [Our research center] does not have any specific research expertise working with birds so we can’t make any recommendations about “cooling the nest.”  We do, however, have a number of bird enthusiasts on our staff.  Below is a response from one of them.

“Usually the parents wet their feathers and cover the chicks with moisture to try and cool them off but once they get to a certain size, they’re on their own.”

I would add to this that in their 15 million years of evolution, these birds are quite well-adapted to short-term environmental stresses like the current heat wave.  My suspicion is that any attempt at intervention would not be received favorably by the parents, either.  Moreover, there are laws against interfering with nesting migratory birds, despite the best of intentions.

Maryland Birding Google Group: I would suggest allowing nature to take its course.  Intervention would require approval from state and federal wildlife officials especially removing the chick from the nest.



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