The crew of the STS Lord Nelson woke up surprised one morning to an unlikely stowaway. An exhausted male osprey, probably burnt out from his seasonal migration from Africa into Northern Europe, had discovered a far more leisurely way to travel: ship-hopping.
According to Wildlife Extra, the bird remained perched and relaxed on the ship for about a day as it sailed around the Channel Islands, until eventually deciding to transfer over to a nearby fishing boat headed in a more favorable direction.
Ironically, the Lord Nelson is the flagship of the Jubilee Sailing Trust, an organization which enables people with disabilities to sail. And if not for the assistance of the tall ship, the exhausted osprey may not have been able to complete his own journey. The raptor probably chose to make his migration by ship because he wasn't fit enough to travel unassisted.
Ospreys, sometimes known as sea hawks or fish eagles, are versatile birds of prey that can be found almost everywhere in the world except Antarctica. In North America they breed during the summers from Alaska to Florida and spend their winters as far south as Argentina. In Europe, they migrate en route from North Africa to breed during summer in Scotland and Scandinavia.
The bird disembarked from the Lord Nelson by the time the ship reached the shores of Jersey, but not before the ship's empathetic crew had contacted the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, where the osprey is currently recuperating at a bird sanctuary. Plans are set to release it back into the wild once it has regained its strength.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, this isn't the first time a stowaway osprey has decided to migrate by hitching rides on ships. Back in 1908, a New York Times article had a headline of "Bird Follows Ship Half Across Sea", with a subheading that amusingly read: "It Samples a Steward, Pecks Off a Piece of His Hand."