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Osprey Nest Surprise!

We interrupt the regularly scheduled updates about the Detroit Lakes Bird Festival for an unbelievable osprey nesting story:

Becky Field, who currently has some of her photography on exhibit at Minnetonka Center for the Arts took a most unusual photo! Look closely at that chick in the osprey nest–that’s not a osprey chick, that’s a Canada goose gosling. Now it looks like the adult is bringing the gosling to the nest in its talons. The osprey is actually bringing in a fish to the nest and the gosling is behind the feet.

The platform is on private property in Maplewoods on Lake Minnetonka and Becky’s friends asked her to come photograph it. They have been watching the osprey on the platform through a scope in their house and were very excited to report the arrival of their first chick to local osprey expert and bander, Vanessa Greene. She told them that no osprey chicks would be hatched this early in Minnesota. When they described the “chick” as having a fuzzy yellow head the plot thickened.

Turns out, they had observed a Canada goose up on the platform for a short time. Either the goose had been chased out by the osprey or she was just dumping excess eggs in the nest. I’m not sure what the goose would have been thinking–she could have been her first breeding season and Canada geese have to kind of learn where to put their nest so it will be safe. Or it could have been a case that she either had no mate or too many eggs in her own nest and decided to give a few out to other nests. Either way, she wasn’t thinking clearly: how would the chicks have gotten down from the high platform–Canada goose chicks aren’t built like wood duck chicks–they weren’t meant to jump 50 feet from a nest.

Somehow, the osprey ended up incubating a goose egg and it hatched. The property owners observed this little family for several days and were expecting the gosling to die within 2-3 days as an all fish diet would not meet its nutritional requirements. Both the male and female osprey tried to feed it fish, since osprey chicks are altricial (beg for food). That would be a tricky situation since Canada geese young are precocial (they feed themselves) and wouldn’t be begging its parents for food. The property owners had even watched the gosling nuzzle up to the female osprey.

Becky took some photos on both May 19. She received a call on May 20 from the property owners that they had not seen the gosling all day and is presumed dead and is either in the nest or has been removed by the osprey.

Thanks, Becky, for sharing this incredible photo and documenting this odd little event. Sometimes nature goes a little off kilter.

16 comments to Osprey Nest Surprise!

  • Karmyn R

    WOW!!!! That was amazing. Poor little gosling – and what a good mommy osprey to at least give it a try!!!

  • MegJ

    I saw three ducklings following a mallard today. Do male ducks help raise their young? I’ve never seen this before. There were no females in sight.

  • Northwesterner

    Here in Washington, Canada Geese nest in osprey nests and on cliffs, sometime above water, sometimes not. The young jump soon after hatching and I have no reason to believe they don’t usually survive the drop. Could this little gosling have jumped rather than died in the nest?

  • curryegg have a great blogs here. I love your photos.

  • Anonymous

    No I don’t think male mallards will help raise chicks, but I have heard of other females grouping together to raise chicks. That is just freaky, I wonder if someone could have put the egg up their. That Canada goose sounds more like a cuckoo that a goose, will a Canada goose destroy a nest if the parent birds don’t raise the fosterling ?
    I have heard of domestic fowl raising a number of different fosters from chickens raising ducks to peacocks. Heck some breeders intentionally stick eggs under chickens to foster.

  • shawnkielty

    you find the coolest stuff!

  • mjd

    Very interesting picture…if we watch closely, nature offers all kinds of surprises.

  • dguzman

    Poor little gosling. But I hope the osprey’s young make it!

  • spacedlaw

    Incredible story !

  • Tracey

    Great pic and story!

    I doubt that the gosling would survive, even if it did survive the fall, northwesterner. Canadian Geese rear their own young and are very protective. A gosling on it’s own would undoubtedly become dinner.

  • birdchick

    Drake mallards do not help raise young. As far as the young mallards following a drake, I found this on BNA Online:

    “Close proximity of broods and molting drakes in crowded populations leads to aberrant parental behavior (Titman and Lowther 1975, Figley and VanDruff 1982). Hens occasionally care for their broods jointly. Drakes often assault hens with newly hatched broods, sometimes fatally. Ducklings may scatter during this harassment, resulting in many strays. At other times, ducklings become confused among all the broods and imprint on another female. Some hens attack stray ducklings, but others accept them.”

    I wonder if the ducklings imprinted on a male who just doesn’t know what to do with them. Probably wondering why they are following him.

    I don’t think the osprey ate the gosling. They rarey eat anything other than fish.

  • Jill

    This goose may have been a late hatcher? Canada Geese regulary use osprey nests to lay/hatch their eggs, and the goslings DO jump down, no matter how high the nest is. Who knows how many survive the jump though. Think on the positive side, he probably was hungry enough to jump out of the nest and go looking for real Canada Goose food, on the ground.

  • MegJ

    I was wondering if the young ducklings saw the male and were just looking for an adult to feed/care for them since mom was gone. But, the male flew away and then came back. We were at rehearsal and it was in a little retention pond in Bloomington. When I went in to rehearsal at 7, the ducklings were following the drake. I came out during a break around 8:15 and saw the ducklings all by themselves, then a male flew in and landed and they swam over and started following him. When I came out from rehearsal at 9:30, the male was still there, still being followed by the three little ducklings. They were very plucky. I hope they do okay.

  • Anonymous

    I once read an article of a female Woodduck that hatched her brood……..complete with a Hooded Merganser duckling, all left the nest with the mother. The survival odds for the Hoodie would have been decent, I really wonder if there would have been imprinting issues. Interestingly, if mallards are hatched and raised by another species (even a chicken), the males will partially to totally imprint on the species that raised them, the females recognize their own species.

    Steve Sheridan

  • Pamela

    Darn cowbirds laid egg in our song sparrow nest. I watched that lil chick outgrow and keep song sparrow mommy busy busy busy.

    I’m sad about the gosling.

  • Anonymous

    We saw an unusual Goose behavior yesterday out on the river in front of our house here in Portland, Oregon…We observed two adult Geese leading a long line of about 60 goslings. One adult in front, and one in the middle, then the goslings lined up in a straight line between them and behind. We have lived here for many years, and have never seen such a thing.