Bella & Beau 2018: Healthy and Growing Chicks

(Osprey nest location:  Cambridge, Maryland, USA)

June 24, 2018

It is wonderful to post that Bella & Beau’s two chicks continue to look healthy and have grown tremendously in the last two weeks.  The oldest chick is about 5 weeks old, followed by the second chick that is about 4 to 4½ weeks old.

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Beau chick-sitting while Bella is out retrieving nesting materials.


It is now noticeable that there is quite a difference in size between the two.  This is possibly one of two reasons.  Either the second chick is perhaps the third egg that hatched and it was the second-born chick that was lost, making the smallest chick possibly 6-7 days younger; or the largest chick is a female (who gains weight faster than the male) and/or the smaller chick is a male.

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Bella dries off while the chicks check out the world around them.  Notice they have been recently fed by the fullness of their food crop between their neck and chest.


In a couple more weeks, it should be possible to tell the two chicks’ gender by their size (female is larger) and the brown speckling (or lack thereof if a male) on their chests.

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An Osprey nestful as Beau looks at us and asks, “What have I gotten myself into?”


Amazingly, the two chicks have now attained about 75% of their adult body weight.  In the photos you can see the feathers on their heads have come in while the dense, wooly down on their body is in its stage of being replaced with the growth of feathers.

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Feathers begin to emerge on the chicks’ bodies.


The chicks’ wings have also grown substantially.  They can be seen stretching and trying to flap them.  This exercise will increase more and more each day.  In 2-3 weeks the chicks should be ready to fledge!

June 14                                                                   June 23



As the saying goes, Bella & Beau have surely “had their hands full” with the full-time care of their large, awkward babies who are awake for longer periods and like to migrate around the nest with curiosity.

As seen in the photos, the nest still remains in a challenging state.   I hate to tell on Beau, but he doesn’t seem to care about retrieving any more sticks.  Bella will demand to the point she is quite loud, but Beau ignores her and stays perched on the nest.

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Bella demanding Beau go for nesting materials.


After fruitless demanding, I’ve watch Bella time after time go and come back with sticks and soft materials while he stays put.  Some nest growth begins and then it diminishes as sticks are knocked off onto the dock or in the water below.

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Bella gives up on Beau and takes off to get nesting materials.


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“Where did Mom go?”


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Bella immediately returns with a stick while Beau watches her.


I looked for information about inexperienced Osprey and found that the produced nest of a young Osprey pair’s first season will be quite small, less than 2½ feet in diameter and only 3-6 inches deep.  So, okay, we will give Beau that one.

Bella appears to have taken over supplying nesting materials to the nest.


Hopefully, some stick ‘gates’ that Bella keeps placing will get lodged in tight enough.  In the meantime, Bella can be seen moving strategically around and perch alongside the nest edge to block any chick she feels is too close to the edge.

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Bella sensing the chicks are leaning out too far over the edge of the nest.


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Bella positions herself between the edge and the chicks, getting them to back up a bit.


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Bella succeeds in the chicks getting back away from the edge.


It gets clearer and clearer that Bella is in charge of the nest.

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Beau decides to help Bella but Bella clearly makes the final decision on that stick placement.


When the chicks are up and hungry, Bella bellows to Beau that demand as well.  Beau seems to have this figured out better and is working hard to keep up with the demand.

Beau “bringing home the bacon”…..I mean fish!


Beau must be doing a fairly good job as evidenced by the large food crops the chicks show often.

Bella still is and will continue to feed the chicks for another couple weeks before they can feed themselves.  Most times the oldest chick eats first while the youngest patiently waits his/her turn.  With plenty of fish meals, the normal sibling aggression is almost non-existent for now which is good.

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The youngest chick gets his/her feeding after the oldest has had his fill.


Even though Bella gives Beau a hard time with her demands, at the end of the day there’s still a bond that they reignite.

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Bella & Beau flying together overhead their nest for just a few minutes.


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Another evening and another flight for Bella & Beau.


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And another gorgeous sunset we all got to enjoy!


(For all the posts on Bella & Beau’s 2018 season, you can click HERE.)



63 thoughts on “Bella & Beau 2018: Healthy and Growing Chicks

  1. Wonderful documentary, Donna! Your post made me feel as though I have been watching their family grow! It’s amazing that the chicks haven’t fallen off the platform, but they probably have a sense about that too.

    • Thank you very much, Terry! They do seem to have that sense you mentioned, they will lie low when they are at the edge to peer out; but they sure do make me nervous. 😲

  2. There is one image where Beau just looks dejected as Bella takes over, but that is merely human interpretation. She is one smart bird, as she improves the strength of the nest and brings soft material. And those chicks! They’re huge! I am enjoying the documentary and appreciate the research that you obviously have done on new parenting, etc. This is quite exciting because I have never had the privilege of seeing from this height into a nest. Thank you!

    • I am so glad you’re enjoying Bella & Beau’s posts, Jane! Of all the years I’ve watched experienced Osprey pairs, I find I am still learning about them with having this privilege to watch an inexperience pair who truly are trying. What a rude awakening they are having, huh?!! After a couple years of growing up in the Caribbean or South America and then to return to the Chesapeake Bay and quickly get to business with a family, whoa. 😉 You are welcome, I am excited to share the Osprey story that develops before me.

  3. Great update Donna. The chicks have certainly grown fast. Poor Bella, a mother’s work is never done, I suppose. Some wonderful shots of the family and I love the flight pics of Bella and Beau, strengthening their bond.

    • Thank you, Sue! I feel for Bella too. She’s a bossy gal but she seems to have the instinct that the nest is important for the chicks’ safety. It is endearing though when they do take a flight together. Sometimes making up is good after a rough day! 🙂

    • You won’t believe some of the Osprey nests here around the Chesapeake Bay from the younger, inexperienced returnees. It can take a couple years for them to really get the hang of it. I was out today and will share sometime soon some of those skimpier nests. With chicks on them as well!

        • There are plenty of branches around, and Osprey will go search far enough if/when they have to. It really comes down to how young they are and becoming parents so early (this could be one or both’s first year to return to their birthing area after being gone for two years on their own, only learning to care & feed themselves), all while trying to figure out all the instincts that they are feeling. And what’s with these two chicks that want to be fed constantly?!! 🙂

  4. Donna, how I enjoyed your outstanding post! Excellent photography and great information about the parents and the chicks. Thank you for sharing this wonderful experience with us 🙂

  5. These are the best pictures of developing young osprey chicks that I have ever seen, Donna. You have a great vantage point, being able to look down on them from a good angle. It helps me imagine all that I am unable to see in our osprey nest near our dock, which is elevated enough from my view that I can’t see young chicks until they have grown considerably in size. Thanks so much for sharing!

    By the way – what lens are you using to get these photos??

    • You’re welcome, I am so happy you are enjoying seeing the growth of the chicks. They go through quite a change in looks, makes you wonder how they’ll ever be as beautiful as the parents, lol.

      I am using a Nikon AF-S VR-Nikkor 70-200mm F2.8 lens with a
      Nikon AF-S TC-17E III Teleconverter (1.7x magnification). I am also cropping the nest close-ups at about 50% in editing.

    • Thank you, David. I’ll be sharing some other Osprey nests soon that I photographed today while boating a river off the Chesapeake Bay. Just as bad, some worse than Bella & Beau’s nest. And they had chicks as well!

  6. Thank you so much for doing these posts and the research that you put into them! I’ve recently learned where there’s an active osprey nest near me, and I’ve been using what I’ve learned from your blog as I photograph the behavior of “my” osprey. It helps a great deal to know what’s happening as I watch it unfold before me, rather than have to figure it out myself.

    I’m glad that both chicks, and their parents are doing so well.

    • I am so glad I am giving you tips on the Ospreys’ behaviors, Jerry, they are quite entertaining to watch. Being out in the open like they are will afford great advantages on studying them. Older, experienced Osprey really do have their act together, and can get quite comical and also quite endearing. Have fun watching ‘your’ nest! 🙂

  7. Your first class report about your Ospreys is excellent Donna. You put us in prime position to observe the bird’s reality daily events. It’s quite obvious that this inexperienced young couple are doing what they can with their little chicks which seem to be full of energy as well as restlessness. Beau and Bella are fine parents that happened to start a family… early. Kudos to your photography and reporting my friend. Your last photo makes me feel that I should live there! 🙂

    • Thank you, HJ, for your comments as always! 🙂 I think Beau does wonder what the heck he got himself into, lol. He probably wanted to play the bachelor scene for a while! 😅

  8. Exquisite photos of the Ospreys, parents and chicks! Your narrative is also very informative and has taught me to better understand what is happening at the nest. Thank you Donna!

  9. Simply awesome shooting and reporting! Agree with a previous comment that you deserve some sort of reward! I’m pretty close to feeling like I’m right there watching with you! Can’t thank you enough for sharing! 😊

    • Thank you, Gunta, you can tell I am addicted, lol. I do take a lot of photos and try to pull out the best to share, and am happy to share what many cannot envision unless watching an Osprey webcam that can take a lot of time (but are very enjoyable too!). I have to give a huge “thank you” to Bella & Beau. They make it easy so many times with their vocals that can be heard through my slightly cracked glass sliding door or I see a fly-by heading to the nest from another window. I can be quick sometimes! 😊

    • When the mornings are sunny, I can get glued to my balcony, enjoying the view, while watching the Ospreys through my binoculars on a tripod, with my zoom lens on another tripod, ready to click when something is going on. My coffee on the table too, of course!! 🙂 But then hubby wants to do something……so I have to compromise! lol

  10. Love your pictures and story about B&B and their chicks! Great captures showing their daily life as busy parents. Here too Sandy is clearly in charge of the nest. I am happy to see two chicks survived, are healthy and seem to be getting enough good food. Soon they will be real beauties! Can’t wait to see them hatch! How long do they typically stay at the nest after they fledge? Our non-migratory ospreys only lay 2 and sometimes 3 eggs. This year I only saw one hatchling so maybe the other egg did not hatch. Such is nature 🙂

    • Thank you, Helen! It’s always a wild ride watching an Osprey family for a full season. It is amazing what we see!

      Here on the Chesapeake Bay, chicks fledge approx. the first/second week of July. They will continue to use the nest as a home base, even after they’ve learned to fly and fish for themselves, not departing to migrate until early/mid September. The mother will actually leave first, around the third week of August. The father will hang around to continue to ensure the chicks are feeding themselves, while waiting for them to migrate. As soon as they leave, he leaves immediately thereafter. They each migrate alone, the parents not reuniting until March the next season and the chicks go wherever to return to the Chesapeake Bay area in two years, usually in the area they were born.

      • Thanks, Donna! I had read some of this about the migrating Ospreys, but didn’t know how long the chicks will hang around the nest. That’s quite a while, but since they have to migrate alone, they will need to get proficient in the art of fishing before they embark on that long journey. As you know, our non-migratory Ospreys leave the nest (and the immediate surroundings) 3-4 weeks after fledging and a parent, sometimes both, seems to follow them. They don’t go very far and the parent(s) are back in their home area in a few weeks. Sandy is still gone, but when I come back at the end of July, I’m sure she’ll be back too. Amazing, all of it 🙂

  11. I love your updates Donna and really appreciate the knowledge you have of what’s going on. Where are you living now? I know you were at Oyster Cove previously (where I am).

    • Thank you Maralee. I am enjoying the daily watching. I had to leave Wed afternoon and got back last night, and I missed my Osprey. 🙂 Yes, it does pang the heart when they leave for migration in August/September. Do your Osprey migrate or are they residents year-round?

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