So unique that it is often placed in its own bird family, the osprey is one of the most widespread birds of prey in the world and can be found on every continent except Antarctica.
Osprey, Fish Hawk, Fish Eagle, Sea Eagle, Sea Hawk
- Bill: Black, strongly hooked
- Size: 23 inches long with 55-70-inch wingspan, large talons
- Colors: White, brown, black, yellow
- Markings: Sexes are similar with a white head with a broad black or dark brown eye stripe curving down the neck. The throat, chest and underparts are white. The back and wings are dark brown. The long brown tail has narrow black bars visible in flight. The underside of the wings are mottled white and brown and show a rectangular brown patch at the wrist. A "necklace" of dark streaks may be visible, usually on females. The legs and feet are whitish with black claws. The eyes are bright yellow.
Habitat and Migration:
Ospreys are found in coastal regions or near large areas of open water such as rivers, estuaries and lakes with thriving fish populations. In North America, the osprey's summer range includes all of Canada to Alaska and the Pacific Northwest and inland to Wyoming, Utah and western Colorado, with limited populations near the Great Lakes, the central Mississippi River and the mid-Atlantic coast. In winter, the birds migrate to coastal California, the Gulf coast of Texas, Mexico, Central America and South America. The osprey can also be found seasonally in similar habitats in Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia and the Middle East.
Like most birds of prey, the osprey is generally silent. Both adults and young may use a high, piercing "kew-kew-kew" call near the nest.
The osprey is a bold fish hunter and will dive from the air to plunge its feet into the water and catch fish with its strong talons. When carrying fish aloft, the bird will orient its catch head-forward to reduce wind resistance. Where their territories overlap, ospreys can be seen battling with bald eagles for fish.
These are monogamous birds believed to mate for life. Both parents will incubate a brood of 2-3 eggs for 32-42 days, and the hatchlings stay in the nest for an additional 50-60 days during which time both parents feed them. A mated pair will only raise one brood per year, and they often return to the same nest in successive years. Juvenile birds may accompany their parents to the same territory the following year.
The osprey is not a backyard bird, but it can flourish near urban areas if the habitat is appropriate. Many urban areas have installed nesting poles or platforms to attract ospreys, and keeping healthy waterways well stocked with fish will help encourage the birds to stay.
- Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)