Prey tell: Kielder opsreys give viewers insight into instincts

The Kielder Ospreys caught on camera

28 April 2016

The contradictory natural instincts of ospreys are being played out for bird watchers in Northumberland as feathered philandering, reluctant lovers, historic homemaking habits and the first egg of the season have set feathers flying.

For the second year running, Kielder Ospreys returning to their Northumberland nests have been spotted having "flings" and demonstrating courtships with birds other than their life partners.

Playing out like nature′s own soap opera, the activity - and that of two ospreys looking to set up a new home as their eggs incubate - is creating some exciting sights for visitors.

Whilst not unusual among ospreys, the flirtatious pattern of behaviour is seen more often by viewers of the birds at Kielder, as the species once more becomes a regular sight in England’s skies.

The “extra marital” activity occurs when one bird from a life pairing returns to a nest ahead of its partner and encounters an osprey of the opposite sex.

Female osprey "White EB", known to Nest 2 male "37" from a couple of years ago, arrived at Nest 2 at the start of April.

However, earlier that day, "37" had courted another female, presenting her with a freshly-caught fish, leaving himself without a gift when "White EB" arrived.

"37" has since been striving to get back in the good books of "White EB", fetching fish and nest making. While there has been a little bedroom action as reward, with "White EB" having proved reluctant, "37′s" efforts have finally proved successful with the nest′s first egg of the year being hatched at the end of last week.

"White EB" also had another contender for her affections as, a few days after she arrived, there came the first return to Kielder of "Blue 39", a Nest 1 male offspring, who presented her with a fish of his own.

The return of "Blue 39", as well as "Blue 2H", who was at Kielder in 2015, is bringing excitement to watchers, as it suggests both are looking for their own territory in the area.

Meanwhile, although regular Nest 1 pair YA and Mrs YA set about arranging the nest for egg laying, they soon decided to take advantage of the better view from a new platform and are now incubating there!

Joanna Dailey, Kielder Osprey expert volunteer, said: "As the new season gets underway and the ospreys return to Kielder, people are seeing the impact of a growing population, with more ospreys seeking partners.

"The story is continuing to grip visitors and viewers of the osprey cams here at Kielder. Courting birds other than the usual partner is normal for ospreys and leads to spectacular aerial activity if the ′proper′ partner returns."

The Nest 2 antics are being watched by visitors through a camera on the nest and footage is streamed to visitors at Kielder Castle.

Wildlife lovers can also keep up to date with all the stories as they unfold through the Kielder osprey blog at

For media information contact Paul White on 0191 301 5325

1. Historically ospreys lived in Northumberland, hunting on the once extensive network of marshes. However, records going back more than 200 years fail to mention any ospreys breeding in the county. Ospreys were once distributed widely, but persecution resulted in the species becoming extinct in England as a breeding bird in 1847 and in Scotland in 1916. Some birds re-colonised in Scotland in 1954 and by 2001 there were nearly 160 breeding pairs (today about 200). The same year saw the first successful osprey nests in England for 160 years by re-colonising birds in the Lake District and re-introduced ones at Rutland Water in the East Midlands.

2. Osprey Fact File:
• Ospreys are migratory and arrive in late March and April and leave again for Africa in August and September.
• The bird is an Amber List species because of its historical decline (due to illegal killing and egg theft) and low breeding numbers.
• Ospreys normally breed for the first time when they are aged between 4-5 years old.
• They are largely monogamous and faithful both to nest and mate.
• The nest is generally built on the top of a large tree.
• Females lay two or three eggs at 1-3 day intervals which are incubated for about 38 - 42 days per egg.
• Ospreys divide the nesting duties between the pair. The female does most of the incubating, brooding and direct feeding of the young. She guards them throughout the nesting period and will share the hunting at later stages when the chicks are larger. The male is the major provider of fish for the female and chicks.
• Chicks fledge about seven weeks after hatching.

3. Kielder Water & Forest Park, which spans 250 square miles, is home to the largest working forest in England and the largest man-made lake in northern Europe. It was awarded the number one tourism experience in England by VisitEngland 2013, and the most tranquil place in England by the Campaign to Protect Rural England. Together with Northumberland National Park, it was granted gold tier Dark Sky Park status in December 2013. For more information see

4. Kielder Water & Forest Park Development Trust is a registered charity working at Kielder to promote sustainable development, provide recreational facilities, improve knowledge of the natural environment and encourage the arts. The Trust works with the range of communities to benefit from these activities. Members, who have appointed directors/trustees to serve on the board, are Northumbrian Water, Forestry Commission, Calvert Trust Kielder, Northumberland County Council and Kielder Observatory Astronomical Society. Affiliate organisations that are not members but have a close working relationship with KWFPDT include Arts Council England, Northumberland Wildlife Trust, Environment Agency, The Scout Association and local decision making bodies such as the parish councils.

5. Northumberland Wildlife Trust is the largest environmental charity in the region working to safeguard native wildlife. One of 47 Wildlife Trusts across the UK, Northumberland Wildlife Trust has campaigned for nature conservation for over 40 years. It aims to inform, educate and involve people of all ages and backgrounds in protecting their environment in favour of wildlife and conservation. Supported by over 13,000 individual and 100 corporate members in the region, Northumberland Wildlife Trust manages and protects critical species and habitats at over 60 nature reserves throughout Newcastle,North Tyneside and Northumberland.

6. The Forestry Commission is the government department responsible in England for protecting, expanding and promoting the sustainable management of woods and forests and increasing their value to society and the environment. Forestry makes a real contribution to sustainable development, providing social and environmental benefits arising from planting and managing attractive, as well as productive, woodlands. Further information can be found at

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