Ospreys are back for the summer and they’re sure fun to watch

  • By Mike Benbow Special to The Herald
  • Thursday, May 8, 2014 1:57pm
  • Life

Like a lot of Washingtonians, ospreys head south for the winter, where they hang out around the water and fish, just like their human neighbors.

But they’re back now for summer in the Puget Sound area, where ospreys don’t find their lives dramatically different. Here, too, they hang out around the water, and they fish a lot.

Fishing is important for ospreys because fish are essentially all they eat. Like other hawks, they also eat the occasional snake, frog or mouse. But not too many.

Ospreys eat so many fish that their talons evolved to be rough, not smooth or grooved, which makes it easier to hold their catch.

They also have one toe that moves forward or backward to make it easier to carry the prey, which the osprey typically places head first to be more aerodynamic as it flies off with a meal.

Ospreys do more than fish in the Puget Sound area. Breeding pairs will be incubating two or three eggs soon and will hope to raise a family before it’s time to head back to Central America in the fall.

That’s a good thing for bird-watchers and for other outdoors enthusiasts because ospreys are fun to watch as they soar overhead with sticks, grasses, twine and in some cases, just plain trash, to repair nests that have suffered over the winter.

And because about 99 percent of their diet is fish, ospreys are pretty good at catching them, which is also fun to watch.

Ospreys have excellent eyesight and like to soar over the water scanning the surface for fish. They think nothing of diving 50 feet to snatch a meal.

Snohomish County residents are fortunate because the Snohomish River estuary is said to have the largest concentration of breeding ospreys in salt water along the West Coast.

A few years ago, biologists counted 26 active osprey nests along the main stem of the Snohomish and its sloughs, as well as in the salt water around Jetty Island.

The easiest way to see some of the large colony of ospreys is to visit Everett’s Legion Park. At the northwest end of the park, you can look out over the river delta and see several osprey nests. There’s also a spotting scope there, but you’re better off bringing your own binoculars.

The Port of Everett’s 10th Street boat launch off W. Marine View Drive in Everett is also a good spot. The area includes a tidal mudflat that makes it easy fishing for the ospreys.

There are several nests atop pilings just north of the parking area for the launch ramp. The city of Everett also has two pocket parks on W. Marine View Drive north of the launch where you can see a few of the nests and also sometimes see ospreys flying overhead.

Another good location to watch osprey is at the city of Everett’s Langus Riverfront Park on Smith Island Road. You can park there and walk an asphalt path along the Snohomish River quite a way, passing by several osprey nests.

You can also walk upriver to Spencer Island, where you’ll see ducks, geese, herons and a variety of other wildlife, including ospreys.

Osprey facts

  • Weight: 3 to 4.5 pounds
  • Length: 20 to 26 inches. Females are usually a bit larger.
  • Wingspan: Up to 6 feet
  • Color: Brown and white
  • Dive: Ospreys dive from 30 to 100 feet in the air after fish.
  • Lifespan: They live about 30 years in the wild.
  • Widespread: Ospreys are the most common type of hawk, living on every continent except Antarctica.

More in Life

‘The Shape of Water’: 1950s creature feature meets 2017 allegory

Director Guillermo del Toro’s allegory bears his fetishes for monsters and surrealistic environments.

‘Ferdinand’ a modern take on the beloved children’s story

The lovable bull is back in an enjoyable but spotty animated film from the makers of “Ice Age.”

Art mimicks reality in engrosing ‘On the Beach at Night Alone’

The Korean film tells the story of an actress recovering from an affair with a married director.

Everett’s Michael ‘Scooby’ Silva is the leader of the (dog) pack

Since 2012, he’s built a thriving business walking dogs while their owners are at work.

Student winners to perform concertos with Mukilteo orchestra

This annual show is a partnership with the Snohomish County Music Teachers Association.

Seattle Men’s Chorus brings sassy brassy good time to Everett

The annual show, this year at the Historic Everett Theatre, has warmth of brass and pinch of sass.

This harp concert is worth the journey to Everett

Annual holiday show by Bronn and Katherine Journey is Wednesday at Everett Performing Arts Center.

Still looking for that one special recipe for the holidays?

Columnist Jan Roberts-Dominguez shares her traditional recipes for cheese soup and chocolate sauce.

How to saute mushrooms to crispy, browned perfection

Various levels of heat affect our scrumptious fungus: There’s “sweating” and then there’s “sauteing.”

Most Read