August 2020 Birds Need Plants Photo Contest

Ospreys use plant material to build their huge nests!

Osprey © Don Rhodes

by Juanita Baker, Ph.D., Birds Need Plants Photo Contest

Did you know, Ospreys are found around the world on every continent but Antarctica! They breed from Alaska and northern Canada across Scandinavia through Russia to Mongolia and China. They migrate thousands of miles from the northern states to Florida, Central and South America to Chile and Brazil during our winter, joining our resident birds in Georgia, Florida and along the Gulf of Mexico. Ospreys also live year-round (breeding residents, migrants) in Baja California and Western Mexico, northern Australia coasts, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, North Korea, China, and Japan.  

In Florida, our resident Ospreys nest beginning in November-January, but those Ospreys flying north from their southern winter homes breed in January-March. Others fly by while migrating north to breed in spring. In fall, breeders in the northern states and Canada return, stopping in Florida to feed, with some staying while others continue the southward migration.

Resident pairs in Florida are most successful and have more viable offspring if the pair is older and experienced.  The male usually returns first to check out and secure last year’s nest site.  The female arrives, they court, and mate.  Both parents cooperate to rebuild and secure the nest and incubate the eggs.  However, the female remains at the nest and feeds the hatchlings. The male leaves to forage for the main dish, fish. The Peligram cover photo by Don Rhodes, likely taken last November, illustrates the female carrying nesting materials.  Plants and sticks are used to build the nest, which is lined with Spanish Moss and other plants.  In Florida, there are many lakes with Cypress and other large trees upon which the Ospreys still build their huge nests of sticks. However, Ospreys also utilize light fixtures, platforms built to protect electrical transformers, and 45% of our cell towers for their nests!  Ospreys are not shy around humans when nesting!  One year I looked forward to seeing the Osprey’s nest progress every time I went to a shopping center in Sebastian. The next year the lights were changed so there was no place for the Osprey to build its nest. Think of our magnificent Ospreys! Build an alternative platform nearby to be kind to Ospreys.  Plant trees.

In Memoriam

A Swallow-tailed Kite taking Spanish Moss to line its nest © Don Rhodes

Don Rhodes loved to tell stories and share them with others.  Lifelong, he had an interest in flying like the birds, and he pursued other outdoor sports.  He came to Vero Beach and built his nest.  He took our PIAS Intensive Birding Class in 2019, telling that he loved learning the stories of the birds (he also said he treasured the many additional stories in Juanita Baker’s book, Florida Birds Exposed) as he could share them when leading the Environmental Learning Center’s Lagoon boat tours. He also was generous with his photographs, (his was the November 2019 Photo of the month), so with his wife, Maria Rhodes-Almaguer’s permission, two appear in our newsletter this month. Despite the stress and concern related to COVID-19, Don still roamed the outdoors, safely distanced from humans and taking his time to get the right photograph.  Sadly, other causes of death still occur all too frequently, including motorcycle accidents, from which Don died on August 20, 2020. We will miss his generous spirit, talent, humor, his interesting stories, and his volunteerism.

A Website.