Hello Osprey observers! Our resident osprey biologist, Dr. Spitzer, is cataloguing Tom and Audrey’s fish intake and would greatly appreciate your help. When you observe Tom returning with a fish for the family, please post on Facebook the time of day and your best guess of the species and approximate size. Osprey Girl will then collect the information off of Facebook.
Fish species that you will likely see include:
Menhaden: A member of the herring family, the silvery- black spotted Atlantic Menhaden (Brevoortia tyrannus) primarily filter feeds for phytoplankton and zooplankton. They usually measure 4-8 inches, but may grow up to 15 inches long. They are easily distinguishable by their spots and deeply forked yellow tail.
White Perch: A small, silvery fish with a dark, highly domed back that lives in fresh and brackish waters throughout the Chesapeake Bay and its tidal tributaries. White Perch (Morone Americana) can be identified by their spiny, dark dorsal fins and pointed, notched tail. They usually measure 7-10 inches long.
Striped Bass (Rockfish): The Maryland state fish, the Striped Bass (Morone saxatilis), is a large, predatory fish with dark stripes running across silvery-metallic sides. Striped bass inhabit the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries year-round and will usually grow to 20 inches in length. Look for the stripes!
Oyster Toadfish: A characteristically “ugly” fish with large-bulging eyes, whiskers, and a scaleless flattened body. Oyster Toadfish (Opsanus tau) live in shallow oyster reefs throughout the Chesapeake Bay and will grow up to 12 inches long. Look for the rounded tail.
There are six species of catfish in the Chesapeake, and telling them apart may be tricky. If you see one, just list “catfish.” It may be one of the following:
Channel Catfish: A fish with a smooth, greenish-grey body, a silvery-white belly, and whisker likes barbels around its mouth. Channel Catfish (Ictalurus punctatus) live in fresh and brackish rivers throughout the Chesapeake Bay and will usually grow to about two feet long. Look for its spots and rounded anal fin.
Blue Catfish: Often confused with the channel catfish, the blue catfish (Ictalurus furcatus) has a large, silver-blue, smooth skinned body and whisker like barbels around its mouth. It was introduced to the region in the 1970s and is now considered an invasive species. Adults will usually measure less than two feet. They will have no spots and a straight anal fin.
Think you see something else? Check out the Chesapeake Bay Program’s field guide. Remember, Tom will often eat portions of the fish (especially the head) before returning to the nest. This could make the identification process a little more difficult. Observe away and remember to please only post your findings on Facebook!
[Images courtesy of the Chesapeake Bay Program and Maryland Department of Natural Resources.]