Birds of Prey: The Osprey
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Other articles on Birds of Prey
- Birds of Prey - The Philippine Eagle
One of the largest and most endangered eagles in the world, the Philippine Eagle is only found on four islands in the Philippines. Is it too late to save the king of the Philippine rainforest?
- Birds of Prey - The Steller's Sea Eagle
The Steller's Sea Eagle is one of the largest and most powerful Birds of Prey found throughout the world. Take a look at this impressive eagle that is found only in the northeastern reaches of Asia.
- Birds of Prey - The Harpy Eagle
An introduction to the Harpy Eagle, one of the largest and most powerful birds in the world. Everything you need to know about this beautiful bird of prey that makes its home in the rain-forests of Central and South America.
- Birds of Prey - The Bald Eagle
The American Bald Eagle is the most majestic and revered of all Birds of Prey across North America. Honored and respected by Native Americans for centuries, this beautiful bird is perhaps the most famous of all Birds of Prey.
- Birds of Prey - The Golden Eagle
Learn everything you need to know about the majestic Golden Eagle. Larger than the Bald Eagle, the Golden Eagle is much more widespread and is the largest Bird of Prey in North America.
© 2012 Bill De Giulio