Osprey chicks practice flight. Photo © Andy Morffew / Flickr through a Creative Commons license

Learning to fly even with wings is a challenge.

It’s been about seven weeks since hatching and the Nature Conservancy’s Osprey Cam chicks have been flapping their wings since they were small and fluffy – this behavior strengthens their flight muscles even before they have any chance of take-off. Now that they’re juveniles almost ready to leave the nest with a full set of flight feathers, training will get more serious – almost like cross fit for birds.

The nest makes a small and very crowded gym now that the chicks are as big as Josie & Elbert, but the chicks must build up muscle mass and they do it by spreading out their wings and flapping – so much flapping.

One day, not long from now, suddenly one of them will lift up into the air as they are working out. Much like a person who has practiced for weeks to flip a tire and finally manages to pull it off, the ospreys often look surprised at their own success – at least it seems that way to bird fan and ecologist Matt Pelikan.

Chicks will continue practicing lift off in place or for very short distances within the nest or onto a nearby platform support before they try out a larger distance (for instance to a nearby tree).

This juvenile just about has the hang of it. Photo © Andy Morffew / Flickr through a Creative Commons license

The shape of birds’ wings combined with the thrust from their muscles allows birds to achieve lift. Not entirely unlike an airplane, osprey wings are shaped such that with the right amount of thrust and when the wing is…