Sleeping Ospreys

Aug 8, 2013 by Mike Bibb

DSCN0147This is a follow-up to my article “Fishing with the Osprey,” which appeared in the June issue of the Rocky Point Times. The story was based upon my April observations of a couple of nearby nesting Osprey parents – often called Sea Hawks – who decided to construct their beach home atop a utility pole adjacent to the RV park my wife and I were camped in.

We returned to the park the later part of June and discovered the Osprey kids have left the nest to pursue their own interests and mom and dad would periodically return to their humble abode, perhaps contemplating raising another family. A difficult decision to make in today’s economic environment.

However, even in the Osprey world, the traditional Mexican custom of “la siesta” is a compelling influence to slow the afternoon pace, relax and dream of mañana. Refurbishing the nest for the next batch of children can wait. Sleep comes first.

Not being very familiar with the everyday habits of the Osprey – to my knowledge, none are found in the arid deserts surrounding Safford, Arizona due to a lack of water and fish – I was somewhat surprised to view the two birds perched next to their nest.

At first, I thought they were merely preparing the home for the next generation, but then I discovered they were not actually inside the nest, but were standing alongside it, on one of the poles out stretched arms.

The birds appeared motionless. Even more odd, they were poised at a slight angle, almost as if they were about to tip over.

Grabbing my binoculars, I scanned their platform and determined they were both sleeping. With eyelids closed and feathers somewhat puffed out, I soon discovered their precarious tilt was the result of their balancing on one leg.

Actually, I knew cranes, flamingos, seagulls, ducks and many other birds routinely rest on one leg, but I had no idea large raptors did the same.

This was a eureka moment. True, maybe not as momentous as my introduction to my future mother-in-law, but nearly as bewildering. Why do Ospreys sleep with one leg tucked in close?

After researching several internet sites, I came to the conclusion it is not unusual for an Osprey, or any other bird, to rest or sleep on one leg. A few speculations but no definitive explanations were given for this activity, other than to simply admit that no one really seems to know why.

Just Mother Nature doing what Mother Nature does. Kind of like my mother-in-law!

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