July 26, 2006

Giving a Bad Name to a Good Bird

Reading Ken Silverstein's report about Congressman Curt Weldon's sponsorship of one of the defense projects that has highly questionable value, reminded me of how offensive it is to have a perfectly good bird have its name applied to a crappy program.

Designed to take off like a helicopter and fly like a plane (and named after a fish-eating raptor with a five-foot wingspan), the Osprey has been plagued by problems—including, according to a 2002 Los Angeles Times series, multiple crashes that have killed dozens of U.S. Marines.

So is it fair that the lovely Osprey should be saddled with a program like that?

Click to enlarge
The Osprey is also known as the fish hawk as it is an extremely fine fisher. You can find osprey nests (a huge pile of sticks) on platforms (or the top of broken trees) along many rivers in the country.

The Osprey was one of the birds that had been badly affected by DDT which during the mid-twentieth century was widely used as a pesticide throughout the United States. DDT was particularly bad for the birds higher in the food chain as the DDT concentrated as it moved up the food chain. And one of the worst effects was that it thinned egg shells of the birds and the number of successful fledglings plummeted. Fortunately, when the use of DDT was stopped, the thinning of the shells also stopped and the osprey began to make their comeback in our country. So much so, that it was only a few years ago that one of Oregon's most famous birders, Harry Nehls, quipped that you couldn't go anywhere in Oregon without running into a osprey: "My gosh, they are becoming a common, ordinary trash bird." Fortunately, the osprey gods didn't hear his blasphemy, so the Osprey continues to be found along the rivers of this land.

Posted by Mary at July 26, 2006 12:10 PM | Entertainment | Technorati links |

I love Ospreys.I live on the Columbia River east of Portland in a small town.I like to go fishing off the dock there in the summer. When I catch trash fish I wait for an Osprey to fly by and fling it up in the air. They will come remarkeably close and swoop in to grab them. It's awesome. One day, I saw 6 of them at once flying out to get fish. Way cool.

Posted by: Bustednuckles at July 28, 2006 03:36 PM

I really love Ospreys too and am so thrilled to see them making such a strong comeback. I also loved this particular photo from NASA. What a beautiful, beautiful bird.

I have a couple of vivid memories of Ospreys: one where I was birding with some Portland birders in Oak Bottoms Park and we saw a pair of Bald Eagles moving into the territory of the Osprey pair who didn't appreciate being told to move along. Another was seeing an Osprey fly south along the beach at Newport Beach, Oregon and then about an hour later fly back north with a large fish in its talons. What wonderful and fascinating birds they are.

Posted by: Mary at July 28, 2006 07:51 PM

Their feet are nifty. They have grippy spikes on the soles for holding onto a slippery, wiggly fish.

Posted by: tjewell at July 28, 2006 09:06 PM