The attack came yesterday at dusk. With both Osprey parents away from their nest of three chicks, the Bald Eagle sweeps in from over the water. One of the Osprey parents suddenly enters the frame in tow and ready to defend the nest, but it can’t match the speed and power of the eagle, which manages to snag one of the chicks with its huge talons before taking off.
“It’s an amazing video really,” says Steve Kress, vice president for bird conservation at the National Audubon Society and director of the Audubon Camp on Hog Island, where the nest is located. “It’s one of the best videos I’ve ever seen of eagle predation.”
But Kress also acknowledges that the clip is bittersweet. For loyal viewers who have followed the nest on Explore.org since the Osprey chicks hatched this spring, the news has been a hard reminder of the reality of nature—again. Last year, the pair of Ospreys, named Rachel and Steve, suffered another Bald Eagle attack much earlier on and lost all of their brood. With this year’s chicks—Eric, Little B, and Spirit, who was taken—being much larger and ready to fledge any day, it seemed as if they were safe from another eagle raid. “I didn’t realize they’d take chicks that big, but now we know they do,” Kress says.
As Kress notes, however, while the video shows just how powerful and fast a raptor attack can be, it’s also a good example of how natural instincts can take over. When Little B, positioned at the front right of the nest, sees the eagle, he’s able to immediately recognize it as a threat and takes off for his first-ever flight—sooner than nature had intended. Meanwhile, Eric, located in the rear of the nest, hunkers down to blend in and become a smaller target. Such is the instinct to survive.
The predation of an Osprey nest by an eagle might come as a surprise to many, but eagles are the ultimate opportunists. “They take what’s around and what’s available,” Kress says. And though the activity from the Audubon Camp located nearby usually keeps them away, in the end, “there’s nothing you can really do.”
The past two year's attacks could also point to a larger trend for coastal birds as Bald Eagle populations continue to rebound. According to Kress, eagles are increasingly attacking other birds’ nests and fledglings, especially those of Cormorants. Even their mere presence on an island or around a nesting site is enough to upset the current delicate balance.
As for Rachel and Steve, this most recent nesting drama at least ends with a silver lining. Not only did Eric survive, but according to an update this morning, Audubon Camp staffers found Little B on the mainland alive and well—with his parents perched nearby.