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Osprey Facts You Might Not Know
By Kyle Carlsen
Assistant Editor | Bird Watcher's Digest
We call them fish hawks, fish eagles, and a multitude of other nicknames. Many are familiar with the osprey, that large, crooked-winged raptor patrolling the world's watery habitats for fish, its preferred food source. Found on every continent except Antarctica, ospreys are summer birds for most of us in North America, spending their winters along warmer waterways in the South American tropics. Florida is an exception, as ospreys can be found in that state year-round. Ospreys have made an impressive comeback since the mid-twentieth century, when their numbers plummeted due to DDT poisoning and other environmental hazards. Thanks to conservation efforts, these incredible birds are on the rise again. How well do you know ospreys?
The name "osprey" is derived from the Latin word ossifragus, meaning what?
a) Sea diver
b) River dweller
c) Bone breaker
d) Fish killer
The osprey is the mascot for what professional sports team?
a) Philadelphia Eagles
b) Toronto Raptors
c) Atlanta Hawks
d) Seattle Seahawks
The osprey is the second most widely distributed raptor species worldwide. What is the first?
a) Golden eagle
b) Peregrine falcon
c) Northern goshawk
d) Red-tailed hawk
How wide is an osprey's wingspan?
a) Three to four feet
b) Five to six feet
c) Seven to eight feet
d) Nine to ten feet
Where might you find an osprey's nest?
a) High in a tree
b) On a boat dock
c) On a nesting platform
d) All of the above
What state is considering changing its state bird to the osprey?
Which of these is true about ospreys?
a) They dive talons-first into the water
b) They have gripping pads on the soles of their feet
c) They carry their prey headfirst for less wind resistance
d) All of the above
Christine Goff, the award-winning author of international thrillers as well as the Birdwatcher's Mystery series, is back with a new, original, bird-themed mystery exclusively for the readers of BirdWire! Upon publication in BirdWire, each installment of "Death of a Flycatcher" will be posted at birdwatchersdigest.com/ DeathOfAFlycatcher, so you can catch up or encourage a friend to start reading. For more information on Goff and her novels, visit christinegoff.com.
The story so far: U.S. Fish and Wildlife special agent Angela Dimato is out of her element as she accompanies a group of volunteers on a habitat restoration project via raft in remote western Colorado. Their objective: remove invasive, exotic tamarisk trees and reintroduce native plants, with the goal of improving habitat for native wildlife, including the endangered southwestern willow flycatcher. The group of 14 volunteers and staff is diverse, and includes two at-risk juveniles, Peter and Damon, performing court-ordered community service after setting fire to public land. A grandfather/grandson duo, Bobo and Maxwell, are birders. Danimal and his brother, Greg, own the rafting company.
With one bend in the river, the sandstone walls rose high up into the air on both sides of the raft. Angela marveled at the work of Mother Nature. Some 10 million years ago, when the uplifting of the San Juan and La Sal mountain ranges began, the Colorado Plateau was lifted as a single unit in between, with only some minor twisting and turning. The rapid flow of the water cut the riverbed swiftly, maintaining the twist and turns in the river, creating deep canyons and meanders, places where the cliffs overhung the river.
"For the next 30 miles we'll be in the Dolores River Canyon Wilderness Study Area," Kate said. "Leave no trace."
"That means, don't take a dump," Peter said to Damon. The boys broke into loud laughter.
Kate ignored them. "If you look up at the cliffs, you might see some petroglyphs."
Peter cupped his hands above his eyes and looked up, but he had the attention span of a gnat. "So where are we camping? There's no shore here."
"We'll stop just below the confluence of Bull Canyon for the night. It's where a stream comes down from its headwaters in the San Juans and joins with the Dolores. There's a perfect sandy alluvial fan for setting up tents just below the Bull Canyon rapid."
Damon rubbed his head. "I don't want to sound stupid, but..."
"Too late," Angela interjected.
Damon shot her a dirty look. "What's a 'sandy alluvial fan?'"
"It's an area where sediment deposits have widened the shore," Kate explained. "They're created during periods of high runoff."
Angela could see it was going right over his head. "It's a river beach."
"Why didn't she just say so?" Peter said.
Kate ignored them. "We're only going to camp there overnight. The spot where we want to clear tamarisk is still a ways down river. But, just so you know, we'll need to watch out for a few things."
"Like what?" Damon asked.
"Poison ivy, scorpions and snakes."
Peter perked up. "What kind of snakes?"
"Awesome," the boys said in unison.
"Not so awesome if you get bitten," Kate said. "The canyon is a remote area. Now that we're in, we're committed. There are no good exits until we reach Bedrock."
"What happens if someone gets hurt?" Julia asked.
Angela had almost forgotten she was there.
"We have a satellite phone for emergencies." Kate pointed to a dry bag tied into the front of the raft.
Angela smiled. "Good to know."