Over the last several years, we've learned a lot about osprey, both through study and observation. Osprey are slender, weighing in at 3.5 to 4.5 pounds, and sporting a 5 to 6 foot wing span. They eat fish 99.9% of the time, living by rivers and streams just for the purpose of catching fish.
Bald eagles, on the other hand, are much stockier, weighing 6.6 to 14 pounds with a wing span of 6 to 7.7 feet. They prefer fish but will also eat prairie dogs, mice, rabbits, waterfowl, and your small pets if they can. And while osprey can dive straight into the water after their prey, eagles are not so lucky. So bald eagles, being opportunistic predators, like to steal fish from other fish eaters like osprey.
Bottom line: Bald eagles are listed as the main predator of osprey.
And so our story begins:
Mama Osprey eagerly awaits the arrival of her dinner, er spouse, who had headed north to the Columbia to fish. She cranes her neck, watching every direction, calling for him.
Suddenly, she goes silent, hunkers down, and flattens herself against the nest, using her protective coloration to hide herself and perhaps her eggs. We couldn't see her but note the color variations in her wing feathers in this photo (she's the one on the left):
We hadn't observed her like this before, but looking upriver we could see two large bald eagles looping lazily back and forth as they scanned the river and surrounds. They were too high to photograph, but their coloration and wing pattern were unmistakable.
We had a few tense moments as they patrolled our area, then continued on, heading north toward the islands. Moments passed, then suddenly our redoubtable Papa Osprey shot up from the river, streaking south, giving the nest a wide berth.
Silence ensues. Then Mama lifts her head and sounds the all clear:
Papa wings his way in toting a succulent supper, while Mama watches his every move. Or maybe she's watching the fish?:
They divide the meal, and Mama takes off for some quiet roof-top dining.
Somehow, I doubt anyone is taking her dinner away from her!
Especially not the geese flying overhead!