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Osprey    Pandion haliaetus

Osprey by Ron Austing3282map.jpg (15216 bytes)

Sound (105 KB)

22-25 inches (147-183 cm)

· Common

Quick Identification:
· White head with large black streak through eye
· White underparts (females have dark streaking on chest)
· Dark brown upperparts and tail

Identification Tips:
· Large, narrow-winged hawk
· Flies on flat wings with distinct kink at elbow
· Wings taper to a rounded tip
· Short hooked beak
· White cap
· Dark brown eyeline broadening behind eye
· Dark brown nape, back and upperwings
· Wings from below: flight feathers white barred with black, undersecondary coverts white and underprimary coverts black producing rectangular black mark at wrist
· White chin, throat, breast and belly
· Brown tail has a number of white bands
· Hovers and then plunges into water after fish

Adult male:
· Underparts entirely white

Adult female:
· Dark necklace of streaks on throat

· White tips to dark back feathers

Similar species:
· Unmarked white belly, wing shape, and flight style make the Osprey instantly recognizable even at a distance.


Fairly common in coastal areas. Also seen at marshes, wetlands, ponds, lakes. Flies 30-100 feet above water's surface. Slow, powerful wingbeat alternates with glide. Often, angled wing shows black wrist patch. Perches on snags or rocks near water. Will hover then plunge feet-first for fish. Large stick nests built in dead trees and man-made structures and platforms.



BREEDING: Along rivers, lakes, and coasts. 1 brood. Mating system is monogamous.
DISPLAYS: Courting pair in swift pursuit flight, soar, circle, dodge with rapid turns and quick swoops.
NEST: In deciduous or conifer tree (dead or alive), 10 to 50 feet above ground, near or over water, also atop pole. Constructed of sticks, sod, cow dung, seaweed, rubbish, etc. Perennial, becoming very large. Both sexes help with nest construction.
EGGS: Three white/pinkish-white/pinkish-cinnamon, marked with brown/olive, rarely unmarked. 2.4" (61 mm).
CHICK DEVELOPMENT: Female incubates with some help from male. Incubation takes 32-43 days. Development is semialtricial (immobile, downy, eyes open, fed). Young are able to fly after 48-59 days. Both sexes tend young.
DIET: Usually hovers at 30 to 100 feet and dives, mostly for fish (live or dead); also takes rodents, birds, small vertebrates, crustaceans. Young fed regurgitant first 10 days. Brood of 3 requires 6 pounds of fish daily.
CONSERVATION: Winters s to Chile, n Argentina. Blue List 1972-81, Special Concern 1982, Local Concern 1986; populations crashed (especially in e) 1950s-1970s from exposure to DDT, encroachment onto breeding grounds, and shooting. Coastal populations now recovered aided by DDT ban and conservation programs including successful use of artificial nesting platforms.
NOTES: Female fed entirely by mate from pair formation through egg laying; courtship feeding may ensure mate fidelity. Male occasionally does up to 30% of incubation. Male delivers food to female at nest; she then feeds young. Female does most of brooding. Young hatch asynchronously. Subject to piracy by Bald Eagle, frigatebird. Only raptor whose front talons turn backward.


Pandion haliaetus   OSPREY. Lakes, rivers, seacoasts.. Breeds from n British Isles e across n Scandinavia and nw,c Russia and c Siberia to Sea of Okhotsk; Kamchatka Peninsula; s to Black and Caspian seas, Aral Sea, Kazakhstan, n Iran, nw India up to 2000-3000 m in the Himalayas, n,s,se China, Hainan Island, Taiwan, Japan. Locally in the Cape Verde and Canary islands; s Iberian Peninsula, Balearic Islands, Corsica; n Morocco, n Algeria; Red Sea area, Socotra Island; breeding records in Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia and Yemen; East Indies (except Sumatra), many s,sw Pacific islands, New Guinea, Bismarck Arch. and the Solomon Islands to Australia where mainly coastal and rare in Victoria and Tasmania. New Caledonia.

North America from w,nc Alaska e across n Canada to Labrador and Newfoundland, s to c Calif., ne Nevada, sc,ec Oregon, sc,se Idaho, ne,ec,sw Utah, ce Arizona, nw New Mexico, sw,nw Colorado, w,nc Wyoming, w,c Montana, s Alberta, s Saskatchewan, s Manitoba, ne Minnesota, c Wisconsin, sc Michigan, s Ontario, New York, n,ne New England and s along the Atlantic coast and adjacent waterways to Florida and w along the Gulf coast to Louisiana. Formerly more widespread including Baja Calif, islands in Gulf of Calif., Tres Marías Is., Sonora, Sinaloa, c Arizona, sw,c New Mexico, Texas, Bahamas, small cays off Cuba and Virgin Islands; coasts and islands of e Yucatán Pen. in Quintana Roo, Belize. Now expanding and recovering much of former range. Does not breed in South America, Antarctica, New Zealand, Vanuatu, Fiji and most of Polynesia. Winters from continental Europe, s,se Asia, Philippines and s U.S. s to s Africa, Hawaiian Islands and s S. America.

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