This geocache is part of the Gold Country GeoTour – The Prequel: Be A Guest. This GeoTour focuses on a step back in time to learn about before the Gold Rush ensued: languages of the region’s culturally diverse families, handed down traditions such as recipes, flora and fauna, historic sites of significance, and points of interest. These stories will help preserve the oral languages and traditions of the region as well as assist in educating visitors and locals alike to the cultural diversity and environmental sensitivity of the region.
Osprey: Pandion haliaetus
Secwépmec: tsícwts ̓ecw (fish hawk)
Tsilhqot’in: Tŝ'ɨg (osprey)
Stl’atl’imx (Fraser River): ts̓ícwts̓ecw (fish hawk)
Nlaka’pamux: c̓íxʷc̓əxʷ (osprey hawk)
Nsyilxcen: c̓ixʷc̓əxʷ (fish hawk or osprey)
English translation: fish hawk, river hawk, sea hawk, fish eagle
Average Life Span: 30 years
Wing Span: 5- 6ft.
Weight: Up to 2kg
Ospreys are birds of prey that are known by many names, some of which are fish hawk, river hawk, sea hawk, or even fish eagle. Scientists use the Latin name to describe the species so as not to have confusion. It is not clear where the term Osprey is derived from however the scientific name comes from Greek mythology and the Greek term for “fishing eagle”.
Ospreys have dark feathers on their upper bodies and their underbellies are covered with white plumage. They have small white heads with a dark ‘crown’ and very distinct eye stripping. A close-up view would reveal that they have a faint and speckled band in the breast plumage.
Ospreys almost always make their homes near bodies of water, raising their hatchlings where there is ample fish to be caught. As with many bird species, the female osprey is considerably larger than the male (up to 20%) and usually has darker markings on its breast and head.
They spot their prey from heights of up to 40 meters above before plunging into the water to catch their prey with their sharp talons. Ospreys can not dive very deep, only down about a meter, and therefor prefer to hunt in shallower waters. It closes its wing halfway and stretched its claws forward then disappears under the waters surface only to emerge moments later with a fish snared tightly in its talons.
On the bottom of their feet, they have special sharp spines that aid them in holding on to the slippery and wiggling prey, the outer toe is also opposable allowing for the bird to have two talons facing forward and two talons facing backwards that aid in retaining their catch.
The only main threat to the adult osprey species are people and the toxins we create. Currently the osprey species is thriving, but it had a close call when in the 1950’s and 60’s the use of DDT, a pesticide, was causing the shells of their eggs to be thin and their food sources to be contaminated. Thanks to the work of conservation, the population has made a strong comeback and is currently no longer at threat of extinction.
Indigenous Cultural Note: The osprey is named for the basic sound it makes, e.g. c̓íixʷc̓íixʷ... the cry of the osprey.
Interesting Facts: The American football team, The Seattle Seahawks” and its logo was inspired by Kwakwaka’wakw Indigenous tribe’s transformation mask, that shows an eagle changing into a human when the mask is opened. How fabulous is it that the original Seahawks logo designers referenced books about the Northwest Coast Indigenous art for their design inspiration!
While Canada supports 1/3 of the world’s osprey population, osprey’s can and do live everywhere in the world except Antarctica often migrating from cooler to warmer climates in winter months. Most ospreys nesting in Canada will migrate to the Latin and Northern South Americas returning in the spring, however, one-year-old birds remain in their wintering grounds for the full summer. On their 2nd or 3rd year 30 to 50 percent will return to the area where they hatched in the spring, however, are not yet mature enough to nest, once sexually mature they will return to their nesting sites every spring. Ospreys are typically monogamous returning to court and reaffirm their bonds year after year.
Researched and written by Lana Rae Brooks