How do you get an osprey to swallow cotton balls?

I just read your story regarding the osprey being fed cotton balls to relieve it of the fish hook it ingested. As osprey are difficult to feed, I am simply wondering how they persuaded the bird to accept the cotton balls.

— Pam L., e-mail submission

We at the Oregon Outdoors Bureau of Since You Asked Central are right there with you, Pam. How in the heck do you get an osprey to eat anything but fish?

The answer? Fish, of course.

Amber Lynn Daniel at Wildlife Images Rehabilitation Center in Merlin says rehabbers there were able to get the cotton ball trick to work using ground-up fish.

Here's the drill — the osprey came in with a fish hook in its stomach. Rehabbers used a trick proven successful in removing hooks from the bellies of pelicans by getting the bird to eat cotton balls, and the cotton balls formed a pellet that included the hook. When the bird regurgitated the cotton ball, out came the hook.

Daniel says the rehabbers first took fish donated from Cole Rivers Hatchery and ground it into a gooey paste. They then soaked the cotton balls in the paste, she says.

One person held the osprey down while the other used her fingers to slide the gooey balls down the bird's throat, Daniel says.

"It took about five minutes," she says.

The original story ran Aug. 20. If you missed it, you can read it online by going to and looking under "Wildlife."

Send questions to "Since You Asked-Outdoors," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by e-mail to (please type SYA in the subject line).

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