Osprey Chicks by Bill Maynard
Not even the baby ones. Like all baby birds, very young Ospreys are ugly. They come out of the egg looking like a failed dinosaur experiment. A sac of skin flocked with a yellowish-gray fuzz. Then they get pinfeathers, and it gets worse.
photo by Rebecca Lazarus
Most baby animals are cute. Mammals, anyway. Puppies, kittens, foals, all of them easily make most humans tilt their heads and say, “Awwwwwwww.” Not birds. They are hideous. Something that looks like a scrotum with the mange is not cute.
photo: Golden Gate Audubon Society
Then they get bigger and put on actual feathers. Better, but still less than cute. One must be patient. Wait for them to grow out their amazingly long wings. Attend as they exercise, facing the wind. Lifting off a few inches at a time, legs furiously “bicycling.”
And the next thing you know, they are magnificent. Their eyes are a brilliant amber, and their feathers have a satiny sheen. Their beak is no longer too big for their face. They spread their wings and dance on the air. They leap into the wind and float, eyes flashing, pinions rippling, talons curved and sharp.
But they are not cute.
Ponies are cute. And the aforementioned puppies and kittens. Even human children can frequently lay claim to cuteness. But not the osprey.
Take Rosie, the mother of the Whirley Crane osprey family. Sleek of line, with a gimlet eye of brilliant yellow, set is an ebon bar. Gorgeous, almost iridescent feathers. Snowy breast dusted with diminutive seal-brown hearts. Talons of lethal obsidian. Effortless flight. Unassailable composure. And she has a knowing stillness, an aura of wild wisdom. She is beautiful, wondrous, breathtaking. But she is not to be described by that juvenile epithet, cute.
Unless otherwise noted, Photos © Golden Gate Audubon Society (Screencaps)