Monday, October 17, 2011

The Osprey - Fish Hunter

The osprey is a large bird of prey that can be found on every continent except Antarctica. It is one of the most wide-ranging species of bird in the world and is uniquely separate from sea eagles such as the bald eagle.

Ospreys are very large raptors with an average body length of over two feet and a wingspan of up to six feet. Females are slightly stouter in the body than males and have wider wings, but both weigh between 2-5lbs. Ospreys are dark brown to grey on the top of their bodies with a predominantly white underside. They have white feet with black talons and can be easily identified in flight by the four finger-like feathers on their wingtips.
As they feed exclusively on fish, ospreys almost always live near water. They are only permanent residents in the subtropical northern hemisphere, but can be found as far north as Alaska during the summer and as far south as Argentina during the northern winter.

The osprey has developed into a very specialized fish hunter and has incredible eyesight to spot underwater prey from high altitudes. Once a fish is spotted, the osprey will hover momentarily before making its dive, snatching the fish out of water with rough talons specifically designed to grasp slippery prey. The osprey will usually carry the fish back to its nest held head first to maximize aerodynamics. More rarely ospreys will hunt small mammals and reptiles if necessary. A fully-grown adult osprey is considered an apex predator in most habitats and does not face a threat from other birds. However, from time to time larger bald eagles have been known to steal the smaller osprey’s kills.
Ospreys will readily nest on man-made structures. Special osprey nesting platforms have been constructed in many locations to help reestablish the species in areas where it is no longer common. The oldest osprey on record lived to be over 30 years old.

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