Ospreys and Bald Eagles
The Osprey and Bald Eagle, two of the largest birds of prey in North America, are found in the Beaufort, Hunting Island and Hilton Head Island area. The Osprey is a common sight and the Eagle is seen less often.
The Osprey diet is almost exclusively fish. Osprey are usually found nesting on man made vertical structures near or on water. Favorite structures are telephone poles, pilings, bridge guard posts, and channel markers. Osprey eggs do not hatch all at once, rather the first chick hatches 4-5 days before the last chick hatches. When food is in shortage, the older chick will often monopolize the food brought by the parents feedings, thus starving the younger chicks, but ensuring at least one chick will survive. Osprey have barbed pads on the soles of their feet to grip slippery fish and in flight will carry a fish headfirst to make it as aerodynamic as possible.
The Bald Eagle is not as common as the Osprey, but can be seen in the area, usually perched in a pine or oak tree. Bald Eagles feed on fish, birds and rodents. If you are lucky, you may get to see the unique Cartwheel Display. This is when two courting eagles fly to a high altitude, lock feet together, and then tumble and cartwheel toward the ground, breaking off at the last moment. It is a once in a lifetime show! Eagles can be seen near water, both fresh and salt, and near marshlands.
From the Brink of Extinction
The Eagle and Osprey were nearly killed off by the pesticide DDT, which was banned in this country. Both are slowly recovering. Pelicans also became DDT victims, but have recovered at a much faster pace. It is against the law to harass, feed or harm the Osprey or the Eagle. When taking pictures by boat, do not cause the Osprey to leave it's nest, as it is very demanding on this breed.