Osprey Nest Mobbed

Mobbing (in the world of birds) is when a smaller species gangs up on a larger bird, or one that is perceived to be a predator. This behavior is typically observed during nesting season, or in defense of territory.

Having just arrived at the second osprey nest, I was greeted by the female (above) standing watch on her favorite perch.

Just then, the air was pierced by the sound of an intruder. The female (below) communicated a warning call to her mate.

The male turned to spot the incoming threat.

A crow had penetrated the osprey’s air space, and challenged the male to give chase.

Intruder targets male osprey
Crow dive bombs osprey nest
Male osprey in pursuit of intruder
Crow communicates with second crow as yet unseen

What ensued was an awesome display of aerial combat. I captured over 300 images most of which are unusable due to the fact that the birds were so agile and maneuverable that I couldn’t lock and focus on the action which, needless to say, was fast and furious.

The duo would simply dive on a dime just as I snapped the shutter so images got clipped. I had to anticipate when to zoom out or zoom in, and I often guessed wrong. The dogfight continued around the perimeter of the nest so I was literally turning 360°, but with the sun behind me, a good number of images were simply washed out.

The crow, with a wingspan of about three feet, attempted to contain the fight at tree top level. At higher altitudes the osprey, with a six foot wingspan, could easily force the crow into a death dive. Images captured at lower altitudes were obscured by signs and fence posts. It was a very challenging photo shoot for which you really cannot prepare.

Crow had advantage below tree tops
Osprey unmatched at altitude
Beak and talons are formidable weapons
Crows are very intelligent and evasive foes

The following image is too soft by my standards, but it captured a turning point in the aerial skirmish. The osprey used its size to gain the upper hand (or wing) over the intruder. It flapped its wing against the crow’s body in an attempt to force it to land. After several flaps the crow had enough and disappeared into the palm trees.

After the crow retreated, the osprey returned to the nest where his mate had been observing the aerial drama. Though the male is smaller than the female, it is his role to defend their territory. She will instinctively remain at the nest to protect her young if the male fails to repulse an intruder.

Breeding season is about four months away so protecting eggs was not a concern. When the crow returned to dive bomb the nest both osprey took flight to repel the intruder.

The crow quickly retreated as it didn’t have the stomach to challenge two osprey in flight. The female returned to the nest while the male continued patrolling the skies.

What about the second crow, as yet unseen, who maintained constant communication from a nearby palm tree?

Up until now the osprey had only been playing with the intruder, but the fight was about to intensify. It would come to a crashing end as the osprey took advantage of its superior diving ability.

Stay tuned for part two of this exciting adventure in the Project Osprey series. (It doesn’t end too well for a couple of crows who thought they could outsmart a bird twice their size.)

Male osprey returns to nest
Safe arrival just before crow returns
Circling to dive bomb nest
Osprey pair take flight to repulse intruder
Female (bottom) returns to nest as male continues patrol
Female watches as male circles over nest
Male osprey keeps watch after mobbing
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