Osprey With Goldfish

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

Here’s a summer shot in the middle of winter which brings up an important conservation issue. This Osprey was photographed on July 2, 2016 by Bert Gregory. He didn’t notice the prey in its talons until later. The location was near the pond by the railway bridge in the very west end of Bowmont Park NW, near Bowness Park.

Osprey with goldfish (Carassius auratus), July 2, 2016, Bowmont Park. Photo by Bert Gregory.

Domestic goldfish, which are native to Asia, are quickly becoming a big problem in Alberta, as they have elsewhere in North America. In the past few years, they have been found to be infesting ponds in Okotoks, Lethbridge, St. Albert, Calgary, and even Fort McMurray. They have been shown to be breeding and overwintering in the wild even in Fort McMurray. Prussian Carp, the wild ancestor of goldfish, have also been found in many Alberta rivers and ponds.

It’s possible that this Osprey caught the goldfish in someone’s backyard pond, but more likely in the pond by the river, or in the river itself, where they are known to breed.

Once unconstrained by a small pond or aquarium these fish can grow very large (over 25 cm in length) and are very prolific. They can devastate native fish habitats by out-competing them for food, and they also eat fish eggs.

The goldfish are thought to have originated here by being dumped into the waterways by pet owners. Prussian Carp may have been deliberately introduced. This is of course illegal; non-native animals and plants can upset the ecosystem and cause enormous problems for our native wildlife. The Alberta government has launched a program called “Don’t Let It Loose” to try to educate the public about the dangers of introducing potentially invasive species into our environment. Efforts are also underway to try to eliminate these fish from our waterways.

UPDATE:

Bernard Tremblay sent in a photo of another Osprey with a goldfish in its talons, taken in Calgary on August 1, 2016:

Nic DeGama-Blanchet, the Executive Director of the Friends of Fish Creek Provincial Park Society, reports that he has seen goldfish in Fish Creek near bridge 11.