By McCalee Cain
This Fourth of July, the great American bald eagle wasn’t the only bird getting buzz. While much of Sandpoint paraded downtown, a dedicated crew saved two orphaned osprey chicks from the Ontario Street nest (not the webcam-covered nest).
The parents of the chicks were killed July 3 in an accident in which they collided midair and fell to their deaths.
Birds of Prey Northwest Executive Director Janie Veltkamp assessed that the two may have been protecting their nest from a predator such as an eagle and miscalculated their flight paths, leading to the crash.
After receiving a report of the collision, a volunteer group was assembled to asses the situation. Ground observers found one nest unattended, and waited into nightfall to see if the parents would return. When they did not, it became clear that they must have died.
“When you have chicks in your nest, you’re highly invested in your youngsters, so that was our clue that it was the parents that had died,” Veltkamp said.
The next morning, to rescue the orphaned chicks from their 100-foot high nest, the volunteer crew enlisted the help of Bestway Tree Service’s tall bucket truck. Service owner Dennis McIntire navigated the bucket up to the nesting platform and found the chicks alive. The birds were carefully transferred to a cardboard box and the bucket maneuvered back to the ground.
At approximately three weeks old, the chicks are very young and vulnerable to cold night air as well as predators.
“They would have perished without parents,” Veltkamp asserted.
After the rescue, the chicks will live at the Birds of Prey Northwest facility in St. Maries, where they will be placed with a female osprey foster mother.
“We keep foster birds for one reason: when orphans come to us, they must be parented by other birds so to avoid imprinting on humans,” Veltkamp said.
Veltkamp explained that imprinting on people creates a complicated psychological situation that is irreversible for raptors. Thus, the chicks will be nurtured by parent birds until they are of appropriate age to handle more human contact.
Thanks to the dedication of Birds of Prey Northwest, the future of the osprey chicks is bright.