Flight feathers are ready…we have lift off!

Osprey chick Blue V9 stretching his wings on the nest 2016. Cumbria Wildlife Trust

After lots of practice flapping about the nest the #FoulshawOspreys chicks have fledged.

Over the past couple of weeks we have seen an increase in flight preparation activity as the chicks have been stretching and flapping their wings, strengthening their muscles ready for their first flight.

They have been losing their fluffy, downy feathers as their new pristine flight feathers are coming through in preparation for their next big step; leaving the nest.

Blue V8 is first to fledge

Blue V8 has been showing promising signs that it won’t be long before she fledges. All that flapping about on the nest is beginning to pay off as she starts to lift slightly off the ground momentarily, for a couple of seconds at a time.

Blue V9 is a bit further behind being the younger of the two chicks, he hasn’t done as much flapping as his sister but he should soon be following suit.

On average osprey chicks fledge at 53 day old, right on cue, on the 14th July, at 52 days old Blue V8 took to the skies on her maiden flight. Blue V9 is 4 days younger than his sister so he still has a bit of time to catch up and start flying.

Blue V9 finally fledges

After much anticipation on the 25th July Blue V9 took to the skies on his first flight. At 59 days old he kept us waiting for his first flight, but now he is happily flying around with the rest of his family. 

Waterproof feathers are a must

The young ospreys must learn how to keep their feathers in top condition. Their new 'true' feathers that have come through whilst down feathers are shed, need waterproof protection. So you'll see them often preening their feathers in order to keep on top of this. 

On an osprey's back, near the base of its tail feathers is a large preen gland which secretes the oily substance that gives their feathers the waterproofing.

Through grooming, the birds can keep their waterproofing maintained. Additionally, osprey feathers do not have the supplementary small feather called an aftershaft that some birds have underneath their contour feathers.

The absence of aftershaft feathers means that the osprey is able to lose water droplets efficiently, a crucial feature for effective hunting when its whole body is often submerged completely under water.

Once they’ve fledged

Once the juveniles fledge they will keep returning to the nest for at least another month, not migrating till around late August, beginning of September time.

Until their departure the two siblings will continue to be fed fish caught by Blue 35 and White YW as they learn vital skills on how to survive on their own.

Generally, osprey fledglings won’t catch their first fish until after they migrate, though they might make attempts during their learning time with their parents.

Happy watching!


About Grace: A student placement gaining experience in wildlife conservation alongside Foulshaw Moss Nature Reserve Officer Simon Thomas.