Jackson County

Could one baby osprey have survived the storm that killed its siblings?

Osprey pair rebuilds nest quickly after storm

A recent storm killed two chicks and destroyed most of an osprey nest in Gautier. Environmentalist Steve Shepard watched them rebuild in two days. He believes there's another chick that survived.
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A recent storm killed two chicks and destroyed most of an osprey nest in Gautier. Environmentalist Steve Shepard watched them rebuild in two days. He believes there's another chick that survived.

Could one chick have survived?

When an overnight storm in late May took out an osprey nest that Steve Shepard has been watching near his family home in south Gautier, he went to check it out.

What he found was heartbreaking. The mother osprey was circling the area around the nest relentlessly. Her partner was sitting on what was left of what had been a huge nest in the top of a leaning pine tree, and there were two mostly grown chicks dead at the foot of the tree. The chicks had fallen from the nest and were killed by predators.

That was May 29, two weeks ago, and Shepard said he has been surprised at what has happened at the nest since.

The osprey pair went to work and quickly rebuilt the nest within days of the storm, he said. He said they put in two full days work, had the nest restored and have been tending to it.

“They never left the area after it was blown down,” Shepard said. “I looked and suddenly there was a nest there again, and it was bigger than before.”

He said the noises he hears at times coming from the nest sound like there could be a single juvenile osprey with the adults. He has watched the pair nest through the years in that location, and says it sounds like a chorus when there are two or three chicks in the nest.

He can’t see into the new nest from the porch of his family home, but he can hear the parents and watch them come and go.

At dawn, on Monday morning, while Shepard was visiting the property, he clearly heard the adults take off, and watched them head east toward a good fishing area.

The nest was quiet, but he said a baby doesn’t usually get excited unless a parent brings a fish.

On Facebook over the weekend, Shepard posted that the sounds from the nest make him wonder if one chick — instead of falling to the ground like the others — somehow clung to a tree or held onto part of the nest and survived until the nest was restored. He speculates it might have been the oldest of the three.

He said he also knows that adult osprey “are good at making baby noises.”

Whether it’s good news and a baby survived, or not, Shepard said, “We’ll know in a few weeks if we see a juvenile flying around.”

Something spurred the two adults.

“The original nest took weeks to build, and they weren’t in a hurry,” Shepard said. “They were serious about the rebuilding. In two days they had a nest.”

Mark LaSalle, director of the Pascagoula River Audubon Center in Moss Point, said osprey have a long season and could have re-nested and laid another egg, or there could be a third chick.

It takes about 34 to 40 days for an osprey chick to hatch and the mother stays on the nest to incubate the egg.

Given the short time since the nest was destroyed and hearing the actions of the adults, he said, it’s likely there was a third chick.

Some facts about osprey

  • Osprey, known as fish hawks, are medium-sized, brown-and-white raptors that you see flapping to remain in one location in the air before they dive for a fish they’ve spotted near the shore of the Mississippi Sound or up river. They regularly patrol the beaches.
  • Osprey nests look like huge piles of limbs in the tops of dead trees, on cell towers, in stadium lights or on telephone poles. Ospreys prefer to build nests in open surroundings so they can easily approach them with food for the chicks.
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