Common Name: Osprey
photo Michael Noonan
Ospreys are part of the Falconiformes
order which groups it with other diurnal birds of prey. The name Pandion
derives from the mythical Greek king, Pandion, who was transformed into an
eagle by the gods while haliaetus is derived from the Greek
photo Michael Noonan
Ospreys are large birds, generally having a mass of 1200-2000g
(42.24-70.4oz), a body length of 55-58cm (21.65-22.83in), and a wingspan of
145-170cm (57.09-66.93in). In general, females are around 20% heavier than
males and have a wingspan that is 5-10% longer. Also, ospreys found in
tropical and subtropical regions tend to be smaller than those from higher
latitudes. Ospreys have a white underside with a dark brown back. They
also have a characteristic dark strip across their eyes and mottled
necklace. Their feet are pale-blue or grey and have barbs on their feet to
maintain a better grip on their food.
Ospreys are distributed throughout all of
the continents excluding for Antarctica and can be found around shallow
bodies of water that have a lot of fish. Such bodies of water include salt
marsh, mangrove and cypress swamps, lakes, bogs, reservoirs, or rivers. The
osprey’s diet consists almost primarily of fish. In fact, over 99% of their
diet is fish.
One key element of Osprey’s behavior can
be seen when they are hunting for fish. Instead of hunting from a perch
like other birds of prey, Osprey flap and glide 10 to 40 m above the surface
of the water. When they spot a fish, they dive down head-first, raking
their talons forward at the last possible second to catch their prey. They
are successful 24-74% of their dives. Also, once and Osprey has captured a
fish, it will adjust it in its talons with the head facing forward to make
it more aerodynamic.
Osprey can be either migratory or sedentary. Those that are sedentary breed
and winter in the same location. Courtship often centers on food and
complex aerial patterns. An osprey will typically lay around three eggs,
none hatching at the same time. The first will hatch a few days early and
that chick will often bully the others for food. Incubation is 32 to 59
days and they stay in the nest for 7 to 17 weeks.
Where to see them in WNY
Look for a large, but shallow, body of
water that has an abundance of fish. An Osprey nest should be easy to spot
due to its large size. Wildlife Refuges, such as Iroquois National Wildlife
Refuge, are excellent examples of a good place to spot Osprey.