Osprey Down

Exhausted learning to fly, this young fish hawk needed many helping hands

At 7:45am on Tuesday, July 21, my phone rang.

Rosemary Roberts, who lives down the road in Chesapeake Beach, announced she’d found an osprey in the middle of the road. “It can’t fly. It needs help,” she screeched.

Roberts had read my book, Oscar and Olive Osprey (www.oscarandolive.com) so she was sure “the osprey lady” would know what to do.

I didn’t, but I knew who would.

Holland point neighbor Colleen Sabo — an artist whose work features birds of prey (www.colleensabo.com) — is also a raptor specialist at Watkins Nature Center in Upper Marlboro, where permanently injured birds of prey become teachers.

Osprey author and the artist took the challenge together. With reinforced leather gloves, a crab net and a beach towel, we rescued the juvenile osprey.

Sabo’s examination revealed no obvious physical injuries, but the bird was unafraid of human contact and unable to fly, so there would have to be professional follow-up. 

Keeping the bird quiet and warm, Sabo transferred it to Nick Sagwitz, a Maryland Department of Natural Resources wildlife responder. Sagwitz called in Greg Kerns of Patuxent River Park, an authority on birds of prey.

Greg made the diagnosis. Observing the young bird, he concluded it had become exhausted learning to fly. Young birds will often tire when first learning to fly, but they usually land in trees or on rocks, not in the middle of a road.

Because this was a strong bird, he felt confident that it would recuperate quickly.

Unable to match the rescued bird with its original home, Kerns put it in a familiar Patuxent River nest occupied by one other juvenile and equipped with a camera.

The new addition was soon flying strongly and being fed by its surrogate parents. Kerns expects the rescued bird will soon be fishing on its own, proving that it’s a lucky bird that lands in help’s way.

If you come across an injured bird of prey, call Maryland Department of Natural Resources: 410-260-8DNR.