Osprey Courtship

I was observing the osprey nest at Crystal Lake (Shasta County CA) several days ago while sleet pelted me. I was wet, cold and beginning to doubt my sanity when a few sunbeams peeked out, the weather cleared just a bit and the osprey began courting. OK!!

Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) courtship can last up to three weeks. The nest from last year appears to be reinforced and ready for a brood. During courtship the two osprey will spend time in the nest together, the male will bring food to the female, there may be some stick exchanging, they exhibit display posture and copulate. When the male brings food (fish) to the female she may fly to a nearby perch to eat, but then returns immediately to the nest. During display the female droops her wings and holds her body horizontal with the tail pointed up and to the side. The male in display turns his back to the female and holds his tail down with his wings spread. These osprey exhibited all the courtship behaviors except I did not see the male bring the female food.

I hope that the next time I go back to the nest the female will be incubating her eggs. There should be two to four eggs which will hatch in 34 to 40 days.

These pictures show the two osprey in their nest, the male flying to and from the nest and the birds copulating. Notice that the male’s talons are on the female’s wings while he is atop her. One osprey (I assume the female) was sitting off to the side out of the picture when the male (?) brought the stick to the nest. She was watching him place the stick in the nest. I included the picture because I liked the position of the wings and tail feathers – they exude power.

Next – osprey chicks!

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6 Responses to Osprey Courtship

  1. Mahon snow says:

    I have been watching anospreysitting alone on a nest. It appears to be waiting for a mate. The nest st today empty for quite a while, when I noticed one in the area, several days later it took to sitting on the nest. The nest is one that has been on a platform and used over the year. Is this their approach to find a mate?


    • gingkochris says:

      The male arrives at the nesting site (usually in the same area as the previous year) first. He begins to “sky dance” before the females arrive and continues less frequently once the females return. The “sky dance” probably helps establish territory and is an advertisement for a mate. Courtship can last up to three weeks and consists of nest sharing, mate feeding and stick exchange.


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  4. Lin Erickson says:

    Fascinating…great photos !!! lin


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