Old Crow says Osprey Pleased with Ballpark

"In the first place, they are not really a hawk. They would like everyone to know they are in their own biological category."

by EVELYN KING for the Missoulian

What was all that screeching?

I hadn't heard it for sometime. Sounded vaguely familiar. Not just the screaming of brakes as cars careen around the corner of Mount and Lawrence, going no place fast, trying to avoid the traffic light on Russell.

Sure enough, old Madam Crow was gargling in the birdbath, scolding in between dipping her beak.

"Where have you been traveling and what are you doing here?" I asked.

"SQUAWK." She sputtered. "Rumors have been circulating about my friends the Osprey and I thought it was time to get a few facts straight!"

"What do you know about Missoula's ball team?" I demanded.

She cocked her head, looked exasperated and replied:

"Not the team, you dummy. The birds. The ones making their homes on the power poles above that weed-infested lot down by the river. Gossip is floating around about their lifestyle. And they don't like it."

Surprised, I asked, "You mean they don't like the thoughts of a new ball park taking over part of their territory?"

Madam Crow looked disgusted. "Of course not. They're excited about the idea. They're urban birds.

Why do you think they built by the river in town to begin with? And they said it will be a welcome change to watch some other activity besides an occasional bum drinking beer and bedding down for the night."

Filled with self-importance, she puffed up and continued. "The Osprey would like to get a few facts straight.

"In the first place, they are not really a hawk. They would like everyone to know they are in their own biological category."

Madam Crow nearly choked on the last words. Then preened herself with importance.

"Did you know, unlike you humans, there is only one species of osprey? And it's one of the few species (like you guys), found on every continent except Antarctica?"

Another sputtering cough.

"The reason the osprey is called a fish hawk is because of its great talent for fishing. Naturally. It can hover 30 to 100 feet above water.

Their keen eyesight spots the fish. Then it plunges like an arrow, feet first into the water, to grab the unexpected finny one. In case you didn't know it, fish are usually tough customers and put up a fight.

Sometimes the osprey has to rest a moment on the top of the water before taking off."

So overcome with her own knowledge, the black breast expanded and she continued.

"Those Garden City Osprey by the river are flattered the new ball club is named after them. They're going to watch closely and hope the players take a few clues from their lifestyle."

"Bet there's something you else you didn't know," the old crow crowed. "Are you paying attention?

"Those big birds (and they are big, with a four to five foot wing span) have special talons which can actually rotate when catching a fish. Sort of like a ball player, twisting his hand to catch a fly ball.

Now, hawks only have three toes facing forward and one toe facing backward.

Ospreys can rotate one of the forward toes to the rear so they have two in front and two in the rear. This forms a four-cornered net of talons, making it much easier to grab a fish. And they have velcrolike bumps on the bottom of their feet which helps them hold on to the slippery fish."

While I looked bewildered at all this information, she chortled: "Bet you didn't know I was so smart. I learned all this from a cousin in Minnesota.

"And further more, although the females and males mate for life, they take a vacation from each other during the winter. (Might be a good idea for some of you humanfolk.)

Then, in the spring, they make it back to the same nest within a few days. Often, the same pair returns to the same nest, year after year, repairing it or adding a new addition.

People don't bother them. They just like the location near the water and good fishing holes. And they especially like the tall power poles where they can see for miles in all directions."

With another dip of her beak in the bird bath, she fluffed her feathers, ready to take off.

"With all the arguing going on about the real Osprey, I thought you might appreciate some facts. Tell them you heard it from me. That's all for now. I'm going to check out the grizzly situation in the Bitterroots."

As Madam Crow took to the air, her parting screech echoed on the wind:



Evelyn King is a retired Missoulian reporter whose column appears every Sunday in Territory.
Original source: The Missoulian

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