The osprey is a fish hawk. It feeds on fish at lakes, rivers, and along the coast. It swoops down and snatches fish that are swimming just below the water’s surface. It holds the fish tightly in its long, sharp talons and flies to its nest or a favorite perch and tears into the flesh with its knifelike beak.
Ospreys feed only on fish. They feed in fresh water, in estuaries, and over the open ocean. Ospreys can easily catch and fly away with fish weighing 11 ounces (300 g). Ospreys are one of the most widespread birds of prey. They can be found on every continent exepct Antarctica.
The osprey has white underparts so that it blends into the sky as fish look to the surface above. Ospreys grow to about 23 inches (58 cm) long and weigh up to 4.5 pounds (2 kg). The wingspan of an osprey is about 71 inches (1890 cm). Ospreys stand tall and upright. They have powerful gray legs and long talons. They have brown stripes running across the eyes and down over the back and wings. The top of the head is white and its breast and underparts are white with brown striations across the breast. The osprey has a sharp hooked beak. Females are heavier than males.
Ospreys pluck fish from the water during a spectacular feet-first dive. The osprey will sometimes totally submerge itself to capture a fish. The osprey’s feet have spiny dry scales and a reversible outer toe that makes it easier to carry slippery, struggling fish. The osprey grips the fish it catches so that the fish flies headfirst making the flight after capture streamlined and aerodynamic and easy for the osprey.
Ospreys will live and nest just about anywhere near water. An osprey nest is a large heap of sticks, driftwood, turf, or seaweed built in forks of trees and rocky outcrops. Ospreys breed for life. The mating season is in autumn and the female lays two to four eggs in spring. Eggs hatch in about 40 days and both parents take care of the young for up to five months. An osprey reaches maturity in about three to four years. Not all ospreys migrate to warmer climates in winter, but many do.
Ospreys can live to the age of 25 years, but commonly they do not live that long. The scientifc name of the osprey is Pandion haliaetus.