Home to Jamaica Bay in 6 Weeks?!

What does Coley the Osprey have in common with Punxsutawney Phil, the Pennsylvania Groundhog who put Groundhog Day on the calendar?  You may have guessed it, six weeks.  Punxsutawney Phil will come out on February 2nd hopefully to see his shadow to declare that spring is six weeks away.  Coley can do better than that.  He will arrive home in Jamaica Bay in about six weeks (on or near the Ides of March) after a grueling and dangerous 3,000 mile journey from his winter quarters in Colombia, South America.  With any luck, Coley’s life long mate will be waiting for him or will arrive back home soon after Coley.

But we are getting ahead of ourselves.  Below is the latest map showing Coley’s recent movements – not hard to describe, it is business as usual. He is staying in his center of activity moving only a few miles away from that spot to forage once or twice a day. It will not be long before he heads north.  My guess is that he will leave Bird Marsh in about 3 weeks, around February 20th.  It will take him about three more weeks to make the journey home.

We’ve had many questions about Ospreys and I will try to address some of them here and in future reports.

When Coley left Jamaica Bay in the fall, did his mate and offspring migrate with him?

Ospreys migrate as individuals, not in groups or flocks.  Usually, females leave the nesting area first, followed by the males. After being left alone for a few days to several weeks, the young birds will also leave the nest site.

If they do not migrate together, will they find each other to winter in the same spot?

Once they begin migration, Osprey pairs will not see each other again until the spring when they return to the nest.  We know where Coley spends the winter, but we do not have a clue where Mrs. Coley may currently be.  It would only be a very rare coincidence if they ended up in the same place.  She could winter anywhere from the Caribbean to Central and South America, as far, or even further, south as Brazil.

Do the young migrate and winter together?

Like the adults, each young will find its own route south and will winter in a different place.

When will the young migrate back north?  Will they return to Jamaica Bay?

The young will remain in the vicinity of the winter home and generally will not migrate north their first spring.  Rather, they will remain near their wintering area for another year until they are almost two years old.  Coley’s young, if they survive to the spring of their second year, will head north, but they will not necessarily return to Jamaica Bay.   In fact, they may return to anywhere within a hundred miles of Jamaica Bay.  Chances are that Coley’s offspring will never see their parents again, or each other.

More Q & A next report in about 10 days, when Coley should be close to heading north. Have a question of your own? Leave it in the comments!

Thanks again for your input and support.

Coley and Dr. Bob Signing off.

Bull’s eyes = Osprey’s location every hour.
Lines = Sequence of locations in time (not the actual flight path)

Click the Sat(ellite), Ter(rain) or Earth buttons on the map for alternate views. The Earth view requires you to have the free Google Earth software on your computer. For a larger map, go to Google Maps or download the KML file to view in your copy of Google Earth.


  1. Great info, thanks.

  2. A bright ray of good news on a cold winter day. Can’t wait for his return. Makes gray days go by faster. Thanks for the update. madelyn

  3. I just returned or made an early migration from South Florida where I saw quite a few Osprey. At one instance I saw 3 hunting together. It made me wonder if they were a family and if they lived in Florida year round.