Most northern-dwelling Ospreys use some combination of muscle power, hot-air currents, and winds to wing down to the tropics every winter. Bailey, on the other hand, took an easier route: She caught a commercial flight to Orlando.
Bailey, as regular Audubon readers and explore.org viewers may remember, is this year's only surviving chick from beloved Osprey couple Rachel and Steve. This summer, followers watched as a Great Horned Owl carried away both of her siblings on Hog Island, Maine. The raptor tried to kill Bailey, too, but a watchful Rachel thwarted the attack. A few weeks later, a swarm of wasps stung the two-month-old until she leapt from the nest, flapping her immature wings to break the fall.
Unable to return to the nest, Bailey was relocated to a new platform, where she eventually fledged. But life didn't get any easier for the young bird. On September 14, she was ambushed twice by Bald Eagles—a species with a history of preying on Hog Island Ospreys. After the attacks the island's staff found her in the water with puncture wounds and transported her to Avian Haven, a rehabilitation center in Freedom, Maine. The wounds healed quickly, but X-rays revealed that Bailey had suffered a fractured ulna in her right wing weeks earlier, possibly from the owl attack. Although she'd been getting by on the island, her injured wing had a noticeable droop, and tackling a thousands-mile-long migration would require her full strength.
Avian Haven staff bound her wing to give it time to heal, and she began a slow recovery. But keeping an Osprey in an outdoor enclosure through the Maine winter “just wasn’t going to be feasible,” Diane Winn, the center's executive director, says. So, on November 9, Bailey made her first fall migration in style: on a nonstop flight out of Boston—and not a moment too soon. “We got her out of here two days before a cold snap,” Winn says.
Bailey’s destination was the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey in Maitland, Florida, where she became the 799th raptor patient of the year. She was placed in an outdoor enclosure with Burn, an Osprey who singed his wings in April flying through a methane flare. The 1,375-square-foot shared space gives the birds plenty of room for exercise: “They can literally do laps in it,” says Dianna Flynt, rehabilitation supervisor at the center.
The calisthenics seem to be helping Bailey recover; on Monday, she flew up to the highest perch in her 15-foot-high enclosure, which Flynt says is a good sign of progress. It’s not yet clear if the bird will ever return to the wild, but the center recently freed another Osprey with a similar injury after a four-month rehabilitation. “That’s a good sign that Bailey has a chance,” Flynt says.
If Bailey regains enough strength for life in the wild, Flynt and team plan to release her along Florida’s Atlantic shoreline with a color-coded band to make her easy to identify. Whether she'll head back to Maine, though, is hard to say. “My hunch is that Bailey will remember the Maine coast and return there eventually if she has the opportunity, but that is not certain because she did not make the flight to Florida on her own,” says Steve Kress, who works on Hog Island and is Audubon's vice president of conservation and director of the seabird restoration program. “As kin to Rachel and Steve, she comes from a strong and capable family, and I hope she makes it back to Maine to contribute to the future of our local population.”
For now, Bailey’s many fans are making sure she gets the help she needs to heal. At least 85 people have contributed $4,500 for her care at Avian Haven, her flight south, and the fresh catch that's delivered to her enclosure daily in Florida. “We want to keep her as wild as possible,” Flynt says. “This pays the fish bill.”
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