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Birds of Prey: The Osprey

Updated on March 12, 2017
Osprey in flight
Osprey in flight | Source

The Osprey is another beautiful member of the raptor family. Quite widespread around the world, they are located on all continents except for Antarctica. Often confused for the American Bald Eagle, the Osprey shares the same main colors of black and white, but differs in that the Osprey has a white underbelly and a black eye band that runs down the side of their face. Interestingly the Bald Eagle and the Osprey often share similar habitats and this sometimes results in battles between the two-raptor species for the same food. Also known as the Sea Hawk or the Fish Hawk, the diet of the Osprey consists almost exclusively of fish. For this reason they can be found near bodies of water such as rivers, marshes, lakes, and seashores.

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That's a lot of sticks
That's a lot of sticks | Source

Nest

Anyone who has traveled the roads of the southeastern United States has most certainly seen one of the Ospreys huge nests perched high in a tree or on top of the power line poles. In some areas of Florida man made platforms have been built exclusively for the Osprey to build their nest.

The nest of the Osprey can reach up to six feet across and consists mostly of stick and other vegetation. The Osprey are extremely tolerant of a wide variety of habitats and will nest where ever there is a body of water and an adequate supply of food.

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Description & Behavior

The Osprey is smaller than the American Bald Eagle but about the same size as the Red Tail Hawk. Full-grown adults are generally between 20 to 24 inches in length with a wingspan of five to six feet. The Osprey will weigh in at around 3 to 4 ½ pounds full grown. The male is slightly smaller than the female and has a more streamlined appearance.

Like other birds of prey the Osprey usually mates for life. The female will generally lay between two to four eggs in the Spring and they are incubated for about five weeks. Both the male and female will share in the incubating duties. The chicks do not hatch all at the same time but will hatch a few days apart which creates a dominate pecking order among them. The chicks will fledge somewhere at around eight to ten weeks but will remain dependent on the parents for a number of months after fledging.

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Diet

The diet of the Osprey is almost exclusively fish although they will occasionally hunt for small rodents. The Osprey is a great fisher bird and will usually glide slowly over the water scanning until a fish is located. Once a meal is spotted the Osprey will glide down to just above the water level snagging its prey with its sharp talons while in flight. On occasion the Osprey has also been known to dive dramatically from heights of up to one hundred feet toward the water and have even been known to dive completely underwater to catch a fish which is unusual for a large bird of prey. The video below has some dramatic footage of the Osprey catching fish, it's worth a watch.

Great video of the Osprey in action

North & South American Range
North & South American Range | Source

Range

Most but not all Osprey will migrate during the winter months. Here in North America, Osprey from the northern regions of the United States and Canada will spend the winter in South America. Some won't make it all the way to South America and wind up spending their winters in Florida, California or along the gulf coast.

In Europe the Osprey will migrate to Africa and sometimes Southern Asia while in Australia the Osprey generally does not migrate. The world wide population of the Osprey is currently estimated at about 460,000 individuals. Like other large birds of prey the Osprey population suffered greatly during the DDT era of the 1960s and 1970s. Fortunately for the Osprey and other birds of prey the use of DDT was banned in 1972 in the United States. DDT was eventually banned worldwide for agricultural use and since then the population of birds of prey have been on the rebound.

Interesting Fact

An interesting fact about the Osprey is that they possess a reversible outer toe that comes in very handy when trying to grasp a slippery fish. This is something that the Osprey shares with the Owl and they are the only two raptors with this feature. When the Osprey is perched in a tree it will usually have three of its toes in front and just one in back, however, when catching fish, the reversible toe repositions such that two toes are in front and two in back.

Notice the Talons

Notice the three talons in front while perched
Notice the three talons in front while perched | Source

© 2012 Bill De Giulio

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    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Thanks Lindsay, glad you enjoyed the hub. The Osprey is certainly a beautiful member of the family.

    • Lindsay Godfree profile image

      Lindsay Godfree 4 years ago from Arizona

      Really enjoyed your photos and article! Love the raptors!

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Thanks hawaiianodysseus. My brother lives in Bellevue so we are very familiar with the Seattle area and the Seahawks. Thank you for reading and the nice comments. HubPages is a wonderful community which I thoroughly enjoy. Best of luck to you also here on HubPages

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hey Lenzy, sorry I missed you. The reversible toe is an amazing feature. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • hawaiianodysseus profile image

      Hawaiian Odysseus 4 years ago from Southeast Washington state

      Voted up, useful, awesome, beautiful, and interesting!

      Hi, Bill! Thanks for an excellently written article about the osprey. As an avid Seattle Seahawks fan, I just had to read more about their team mascot.

      Your photographs are fantastic! They complement your tightly organized writing to the T.

      You've done very well in the relatively short time you've been on HubPages. Thanks for following, and I am certainly reciprocating. Why? Because it's writers like you who contribute to HubPages being a community that's "a cut above" the rest. Aloha, and best wishes for continued success here on HP! (You'll be hearing from me from time to time!)

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Thank you Christy. Appreciate you taking the time to read and comments. Have a great day.

    • ChristyWrites profile image

      Christy Birmingham 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      What a well-organized hub you have here, complete with photos and video too. I vote up.

    • Lenzy profile image

      Lenzy 4 years ago from Arlington, Texas

      Bdegiulio, I was really interested to see the way the Osprey catches a fish. That reversible toe sure comes in handy. Very interesting. Lenzy

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Thanks JKenny. We see them down in Florida all the time and they are an amazing bird. Watching them glide over the water and snag a fish is remarkable. Thanks for reading and the vote. Have a great day.

    • JKenny profile image

      James Kenny 4 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Interesting article. I've seen Ospreys in Britain at a place called Rutland Water. They are simply magical, and the way they catch fish without drowning themselves astonishes me. Great work. Voted up etc.

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi aviannovice. Must have been a great experience to get up close and personal with an Osprey. Thanks for stopping by to read and comment. Have a great day.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Yes, these are sure wonderful birds. I actually knew one from my rehabber days, and he did a mating dance for me. Very friendly guy!

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Thanks BraidedZero. Appreciate you stopping by to read and comment. Congratulations on the new camera, enjoy it. Thanks for the vote, have a great day.

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Thank you wrenfrost56. The Ospry isn't as popular as some of the other more famous birds of prey but they certainly are beautiful. And yes, it's good to see that the male helps, the way it should be. Thanks for reading

    • BraidedZero profile image

      James Robertson 4 years ago from Texas

      What a beautiful bird! Great hub! I have recently gotten into bird watching since I bought a new camera, a Sony DSC-HX200V. Best camera I've ever owned. Voted up. Beautiful.

    • wrenfrost56 profile image

      wrenfrost56 4 years ago from U.K.

      Good to know that the male helps with the incubating duties. :) Stunning pictures, really informative and rich in facts, really enjoyed this, thank-you for sharing.

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