Has the migratory Osprey found an additional home?

The species’ frequency data around waterbodies and wetlands in Chennai, Kancheepuram and Thiruvallur particularly give rise to this notion

Is the migratory Ospery more at home in Chennai and outlying areas than believed? That question is being asked by birdwatchers, their human-superciliums raised by the species’ frequency data.

The raptor has clearly redefined the migratory season for itself, being sighted regularly outside that window. Observed for a reasonable passage of time, this pattern prompts a consideration: Have a few of them become residents?

Sundaravel Palanivelu echoes a view within the birding community that particularly Ospreys showing up at Siruthavoor lake could be residents; simply because they show up when they should not. He backs it up with an Osprey frequency chart from eBird.

An Osprey at Kaveripakkam lake area. Photo: Rama Neelamegam  
| Photo Credit:
Rama Neelamegam

Despite data, the notion obviously has to be treated as a fledgling, and let time decide whether it should grow to adulhood. Or, if it should just be allowed to go with the wind. eBird reviewer Vikas Madhav Nagarajan thinks it cannot be rejected out of hand.

“The right response is: We are not really sure at this point of time. I too have seen Ospreys in places like Adyar Estuary in June and July — that was in 2016, when they were also seen early. Now, they are either staying longer and leaving late or coming back early. Or, it could be both. And that may be creating the illusion that the bird is not migrating back to their known breeding grounds, and has found one nearby. So, the bird would not be there only in July and August. Generally, resident birds breed, but there are no records of Ospreys breeding in India, and certainly not in Tamil Nadu. Of course, there are distinctions between breeding and non-breeding residents. But when it comes to Ospreys, it being a resident is not impossible but highly unlikely.”

That said, Vikas still allows for the possibility that “in a few more years”, what is presumed may be observed and verified fact.

He continues: “Earlier, flamingos were strictly migratory, but now throughout the year, we find a chunk of them in some parts. As of today, it is difficult to come to a conclusion about Ospreys, and so it is a ‘no’, but only for the time being. Is it possible for this to happen: I would say ‘yes’.”

Vikas rests this stand on the strength of the fact that the Osprey is a coastal bird also found inland around lakes and wetlands where they can fish.

“Going by the Osprey experience in the Americas, they would need a coastal forest nearby. And we have a good location for it to happen: Pulicat, which is seen as a coastal island. There are other possibilities: One of them being the Pichavaram mangroves with its forest-islets.”

Osprey points

On the current certainties about the Osprey, here are some of the places around Chennai and those lying outside in neighbouring districts, including Kancheepuram and Thiruvallur, that are known for Osprey sightings: Edyar Estuary, Perumbakkam wetland, Pallikaranai marsh, Kelambakkam backwaters, Kaiveli, Thaiyur lake, Kattur lake, Siruthavoor lake, Polacheri lake, Pulicat lake and Nayapakkam lake. In Vellore, Ospreys show up at Kaveripakkam lake.

A piscivore, Osprey is mostly frozen in images of how it would be parked on a pylon or electric pole, sometimes feeding on the fish it had carried up there to the perch. Or, images of how it carrying the kill to the perch, having the fish pinned first with the talons on one leg, followed by the talons on the other, which have led birders to bestow the title “skateboarder in the skies” on the bird.

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