It’s time to play I spy an osprey — up close and personal.
A loftily placed camera at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum is the latest way to watch Minnesota wildlife without actually setting foot in the wild. A nesting osprey pair’s egg is due to hatch any day now, with the whole affair captured 24/7 by the bird cam.
Viewable from your computer or mobile device at www.startribune.com/a2318, the fish-eating raptors have attracted Internet watchers from as far away as China.
The three-year-old female and 21-year-old male are one of at least 90 nesting pairs in the area this summer, thanks to a reintroduction program initiated in the 1980s by the Three Rivers Park District.
They apparently have a modern marriage; Dad’s been through this so many times before that he’s the main incubator, staying home with the eggs more often than young Mom, who is presumably out snaring fish with her sharp talons.
“I don’t think she realized what a commitment it would be,” joked wildlife expert Judy Voigt Englund, a naturalist with the Three Rivers osprey program.
The two have colored bands on their legs, placed there by humans in order to better study them — Mom’s is green and black — but since you can’t always see the legs, Englund suggests checking the birds’ breasts.
“The female’s has brown spots on it, while the male’s is mostly all white,” she said.
Like humans, these fish hawks tend to eat three times a day, morning, noon and night, so try checking in at different times to catch a feeding.
If you see one of the parents stepping on the egg, don’t fret. An adult osprey only weighs about 3 ½ pounds because its body is mostly feathers and its bones are hollow, so a healthy egg can withstand the pressure.
Ospreys like to make their nests at the highest point possible, which has often led to them being fried on electrical wires. But utility companies like Wright-Hennepin Cooperative have erected slightly taller alternative poles that the birds prefer (perhaps out of the goodness of the company’s heart, but also because the ospreys can cause expensive power-loss blackouts).
Englund said the cold spring months have led to fewer eggs hatching this season. If the remaining egg in this nest hatches, it will come after an incubation of about 35 days.
Late July, when the young hatchlings begin to fly, is a good time to be on the lookout for ospreys in the sky. At that time, the young ones will likely be all male. Englund says the female chicks like to hang around the nest longer, begging Dad for food.