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

Mukilteo’s Hani Hani scores with the police chief

The Japanese restaurant serves dishes (poke, ramen, grill) inspired by the Hawaiian islands.

‘Coco’ is another eye-popping home run for Pixar/Disney

The animated movie’s a lively, touching tale of honoring family, following dreams.

Beer of the Week: Scuttlebutt’s Barrel-aged Belgian Winter

Made in 2013, the dark strong ale was stowed away in barrels. The brewery tests one each year.

‘Love, Chaos and Dinner’ an Teatro ZinZanni’s original show

The “Parsian cabaret” is a superb circus dinner theater operation in Marymoor Park through April 29.

Plant of Merit: Mahonia x media ‘Charity,’ evergreen shrub

What: Mahonia x media “Charity” is a statuesque, evergreen shrub with bright… Continue reading

Gardening answers for raised beds, invasive plants and more

Columnist Adrian Higgins answered gardeners’ questions recently in an online Washington Post chat.

Garden clubs in Snohomish, Island counties

Alderwood Garden Club: Cedar Valley Grange Hall, 20526 52nd Ave. W., Lynnwood;… Continue reading

Sally and Tom Joy surrounded by Christmas decorations at their home on Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017 in Mukilteo, Wa. The Joys are opening their home to the holiday home tour, a fundraiser for the Assistance League. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
A joyous display: 5 houses on Assistance League’s holiday tour

The annual self-guided Holiday Home Tour is a fundraiser for the Operation School Bell program.

Add evergreen perennials to your garden for winter interest

Here’s a list of plants that compliment the seasonal shrubs you’ve just added to your yard.

Most Read