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The Osprey (Pandion haliaetus), sometimes known as the sea hawk, fish eagle or fish hawk, is a diurnal, fish-eating bird of prey. It is a large raptor, reaching more than 60 cm (24 in) in length and 180 cm (71 in) across the wings.


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An Osprey’s diet is almost exclusively live fish, and includes a wide variety of fish species. The Osprey uses low, slow flights over water, and occasionally hovers to search for prey. When a fish is spotted, Osprey make dramatic dives from heights of 30 - 120 feet to plunge feet first into the water after their prey.

Article: Osprey
Source: Osprey

Ospreys have an opposable toe that can face forward or backward. While the bird is perched, it usually has three toes in front and one in back. When an Osprey catches a fish, its feet and toes are positioned with two toes on either side of the fish, one foot ahead of the other.

Article: Osprey
Source: Osprey

Ospreys have a worldwide distribution, wintering or breeding on every continent except Antarctica. Ospreys are not known to breed in South America or Indo-Malasia, but are sometimes found there in the winter. Ospreys are winter breeders in Egypt and some Red Sea islands. Regions where ospreys are particularly abundant include Scandinavia and the Chesapeake Bay region of the United States.

Article: Pandion haliaetusosprey
Source: ADW: Pandion haliaetus: I...

Like many other birds of prey, the female is larger then the male.  The female Osprey can have a wingspread of almost 5 feet and the male about 4 feet.

Article: BirdCam
Source: BirdCam

Like bald eagles, ospreys often reuse old nests, adding new material to them each season. Ospreys prefer nests near water, especially in large trees, but will also nest on artificial platforms. Ospreys three years or older usually mate for life, and their spring courtship begins a five-month period when they raise their young.

Article: Friends of Blackwater NWR...
Source: Friends of Blackwater NWR

Ospreys feed primarily on live fish, which they catch by using their long, hooked talons. An osprey sometimes plunges deep enough to momentarily submerge its entire body. The female lays one to four, but usually three, eggs in the spring in a large nest of sticks constructed at the top of a dead tree.

Article: Osprey Fact Sheet
Source: NYS Dept. of Environmenta...

The decline of this species was caused by DDT-induced eggshell thinning, which reduced the reproductive output of breeding pairs. In turn, the breeding population declined from an estimated 1,000 active nests in the 1940's between New York City and Boston, to an estimated 150 nests in 1969. Since the ban of the insecticide DDT in New York in 1971, and in the rest of the country in 1972, the population has slowly been making a comeback.

Article: Osprey Fact Sheet
Source: NYS Dept. of Environmenta...

Known locally as the "fish hawk", Ospreys are strongly associated with water, as their diet is almost exclusively fish.  Much better fishers than their larger cousin, in many areas Bald Eagles obtain much of their food by harassing Ospreys and stealing their prey.

Article: Osprey
Source: Osprey - Pandion haliaetu...

The Osprey Bird Species have very good eyesight that is particularly good at spotting fish under the surface of the water and very highly attuned to movement. They often will be seen circling or sitting patiently by the side of lakes waiting for an unfortunate fish to move or come up to the surface.

Article: Osprey Bird | Birds ospre...
Source: Osprey Bird | Birds ospre...

Occurring on every continent except Antarctica, the osprey is the one of the most widespread birds of prey. The plumage of the osprey is generally brown above and white below, with a whitish head and a dark stripe through each eye (2) (4). The wings are long and pointed and the legs are stout and heavily scaled (4)

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Source: ARKive