The Audubon Society has a livestream of an osprey nest in Hog Island, Maine, where this spring viewers were delighted to see the parents, Steve and Rachel, hatch three adorable osprey chicks. After a bald eagle attack earlier this month, they are down to two chicks, because nature could not give the slightest shit about what you find cute.
The video might be a little intense, but it’s also instructive.
You’re a chick. You’re a few months old. You don’t know the world is scary because you’ve never left the nest, and your parents have provided for you and kept you safe.
And then a shape appears on the horizon.
At middle-left is a bald eagle, swooping directly for the nest. (Sadly, the figure trailing it, at top left, is one of the osprey parents, too small and too late to do anything to run the eagle off. It is painfully familiar: Steve and Rachel lost both their 2015 chicks in a single attack last year.)
The chick in the middle is Little B. He has two seconds between the eagle’s appearance and its arrival. Little B has never flown in his life. He learns quickly:
Little B bails. You can tell, from his fishtailing plunge, that he’s never flown before. But he flings himself clear, and the Audubon Society says he was later found alive and well on the ground, with his parents nearby. This is, quite literally, the fight-or-flight mechanism in action—natural selection too.
Spirit, to Little B’s left, also notices impending danger, and moves to flee—but he is a split second too late. Spirit gets wrecked:
You can see the osprey parent veering off to the side, helpless. Spirit, meanwhile, is dead, eaten, his succulent innards torn from his body by the eagle’s perfectly designed beak, perhaps to feed its own young. Nature isn’t pretty—predators gotta eat.
But wait. In all the commotion, the third chick has escaped notice. Watch the gif above: Right as Little B makes a break for it, and Spirit unwittingly presents a target, the third chick, Eric, hunkers down and goes flat.
Eric, showing a low profile and blending in with the nest, does not move until long after the eagle is gone. This is a valid defense strategy too—unlike last year’s attack on this nest, in which two chicks were taken, this time the eagle doesn’t come back.
This is downright incredible footage, and educational too. Steve Kress, the VP for bird conservation at the National Audubon Society, says he didn’t realize eagles would target fledglings this large. We are learning every day.