#WildlifeWednesday – The Osprey: Pandion haliaetus

Hi, Everybody. As promised, I’m back (finally!) with a new #WildlifeWednesday for your viewing pleasure. Hope you’ll enjoy this quick overview from one of my nature presentations that I present locally a couple times a month. It’s been shortened, yes, but there’s still a good bit of info for you, and of course, some very pretty images.

Last time around, we talked about the Bald Eagle. If you missed that one, you can check HERE.Β  And as you’ll see, most of these slides have information for those of you interested that I may or may not repeat here or there in the text I’m adding today.

As I mentioned last time, people often get eagles and ospreys confused, especially from a distance, so we’ll see if today’s post will further help you to tell them apart. If you remember, the adult bald eagle is solid dark brown, except for the white head and tail. (See photo above.)

As you can also see from the osprey in that photo and this next one, the same cannot be said of it. The osprey is largely pale when seen from below. There are very obvious black patches on each “wrist,” and those, combined with the banded feathers along the edges of the wings and on the tail, immediately alert you to the fact that this is not an eagle. (A few statistics provided on this slide for your perusal.)

RANGE MAPS:

As shown above, ospreys appear all over the world, and in fact, have the widest distribution of any raptor (bird of prey) other than peregrine falcons. In other words, you stand a really good chance of spotting these guys almost everywhere you go, assuming you are near water, where their favorite food lives. (They are even more dependent upon fish for their diet than bald eagles are, eating them almost exclusively.)

COURTSHIP & NESTING:

Like many birds, the osprey has some pretty fancy footwork to call on when he’s busy trying to impress his future mate. (After all, ospreys will be together for life.) Once courtship is over and the bond has been formed, the pair begins building large nests of twigs and sticks. (NOT as large as an eagle’s, as I showed you in the last post, but still quite impressive.)

Even as a new hatchling, the black stripe through the osprey’s eye is clearly visible.

Chicks fledge (leave the nest) at 8 weeks, but they remain with the parent birds for over three months, as the parents teach them to hunt their own prey.

The young osprey above is almost ready to be on his own. Notice he’s in a defensive posture, with his nestmate hiding beneath his wing. As he ages, the speckles on his dark feathers will disappear.

FISHING FOR A MEAL:

The photos below show the differences between an eagle’s fishing technique and an osprey’s.Β 

Clearly the osprey is NOT fooling around, here.Β  πŸ˜€

Also notice how the osprey below is carrying his catch in line with his body, rather than crossways. Aerodynamics again! And this is something eagles can’t do. (More on that shortly.)

Okay, almost every time. But hands down, the osprey is the better fisher. He’s faster and far more aerodynamic, plunges well below the surface to snatch his prey, and uses more than just the rear talon to snag his fish.

Again, notice below that the fish is carried in line with the osprey’s body, which is something the eagle can’t do.

Eagles are much bigger, so they quite often let the osprey do the work, thenΒ  dive bomb them to steal their fish. But once in a while, the osprey outsmarts or out maneuvers the eagle, and steals the larger bird’s dinner.

DINING AND CLEANING UP:

Watching an osprey bathe is always entertaining.

Sometimes it looks like they’re just out for a swim, doing the backstroke across the water. But it’s very difficult for any bird to fly with dirty feathers, so it’s important for them to be clean. (That’s why backyard birdbaths attract so many songbirds. It’s critical for them to maintain those feathers, too.)

Now here’s a closeup of those osprey toes mentioned above,Β  that fantastic adaptation that gives them the advantage over the eagle. Normally, an osprey’s toes are configured like most birds (except woodpeckers) with three toes forward and one backward. But, when catching fish, it can rotate one of the front toes to the back–Β 

–meaning it can grip slippery prey better, and can actually carry them in line with its body. Streamlining at its best. These improved aerodynamics means it it has a better chance of escaping an eagle bent on stealing the osprey’s catch.

ONE LAST NEAT ADAPTATION DESIGNED TO IMPROVE HUNTING SKILLS:

No need for tinted lenses here!

And with that, I’ll wrap up my overview of Florida’s Fabulous Ospreys! Hope you’ve enjoyed learning a bit about this interesting and beautiful bird.

Thanks so much for stopping by today. I’ll be back soon with another #WildlifeWednesday post for you. Haven’t decided on the topic yet, but I’ll do my best to make it a good one. See you then!Β 

And remember to look UP now and then. You never know what might be passing overhead! πŸ™‚

36 thoughts on “#WildlifeWednesday – The Osprey: Pandion haliaetus

  1. Excellent information, Marsha. We have bald eagles and osprey where I live. (northern California) People shouldn’t mix these birds up as they don’t look that much alike, but I suppose non-birders might have trouble distinguishing the two.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I don’t think they look a lot alike, either, but non-birders see a large bird of prey with white on the head, and seem to automatically think “eagle.” I can remember being directed to an “eagle’s nest” on Sanibel Island once, and it turned out to be ospreys, which at the time, were pretty scarce. DDT had really reduced the population of both birds. Thankfully, they’ve each come back strong, especially since Florida has the largest eagle population in the U. S. next to Alaska, though ours are a very slightly smaller subspecies, the Southern Bald Eagle.

      Hopefully my last post and this one will clear up the fairly distinct differences between the two for those who aren’t familiar with them. Thanks so much for stopping by today, Pete! And lucky you to live in a state that ALSO has golden eagles. (Saw my first and only one while visiting my daughter some years ago.)

      Merry Christmas! πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Fascinating facts! It hadn’t occurred to me that the osprey could hold its catch like that to be more aerodynamic – the pictures of the talons made it really clear what was happening there. I like the fact that they will nest on man made nesting platforms and my favourite photo out of a great selection was the one of the osprey looking as if it was lying back and relaxing in a hot bath. Great to have this series back.

    Liked by 1 person

    • There’s a platform osprey nest on my way to Enterprise Museum, and I love to see the birds there as I drive by. So glad you enjoyed the post, Trish, and that you were interested in the images and information on their remarkable “talon trick.” I think in addition to giving them excellent aerodynamics, it probably helps them get a good grip on their slippery dinners. And the one who looks like he’s enjoying a soak in a hot tub makes me laugh, too!

      Thanks so much for stopping by, and a very Merry Christmas to you and yours, even if some of it is done via Skype. Bless our holiday technology! πŸ˜€ ❀

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    • Nothing makes me happier than to learn something new, except maybe sharing it with others. Yay! Yeah, that “talon trick” is pretty cool. And I’d almost forgotten that owls can do it, too. I’m wondering if it helps them with their infamous ability to fly without making a whisper of a sound? Or, it could just give them a better grip on their prey, though they often carry smaller animals in their beaks. It seems that no matter how much we learn about nature and wildlife, there’s always something out there we haven’t discovered yet. That’s what makes it fun!

      Thanks for stopping by today, and I hope you have a wonderful holiday! Merry Christmas!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Around lakes is an excellent place to spot them, Joan, as fish make up the bulk of an eagle’s diet, even when they have to steal them from the osprey. I didn’t realize you don’t have those (ospreys) in your area, though. The range map indicates almost all of the eastern part of Texas has them at various times. Some areas year round, some during winter only, and some during migration. Might be they are closer to the coast, which they love. Or just not common, so not seen very often. I don’t know much at all about Texas wildlife except that my parents used to take birding vacations there because there were so many good things to see.

      Thanks so much for stopping by today and taking time to comment. (I’m running behind on my SE reblogs, but will get to them this afternoon.) Hope you have a Merry (and SAFE) Christmas! πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

    • Those talons are why people who handle birds of prey wear HEAVY leather gloves. You do NOT want them latching on to your hand–or any other part of your body! πŸ˜€ And I agree on the mating rituals. Many birds do some interesting or funny things during courtship (as do PEOPLE, actually), but birds of prey are exceptionally entertaining.

      Glad you enjoyed the post, Teri, and thanks so much for stopping by today. Hope you have a Merry (even if quiet) Christmas and a Happy New Year, filled with less Sturm und Drang and a few drama-less days now and then. (Is that so much to ask of the world??? Nevermind. Don’t answer that.) Go forth and celebrate as you can, and I’ll do the same down here. πŸ™‚ ❀

      Liked by 1 person

  3. A super post on the ospreys, Marcia. They are remarkable birds. When we lived on the Gulf we had a family nearby that we enjoyed watching. I never knew about the toes and the fact that they dive into the water after their prey. Excellent post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • So glad you enjoyed it, John. The more we learn about nature and wildlife, the more we discover there is to know, right? Always something new being noticed or documented. The “talon trick” is amazing, isn’t it, and yes, they often disappear under the surface to catch those fishies. I think the feathers that shield their eyes from glare help them to see what’s swimming a couple of feet down. Nature is remarkable!

      As I mentioned to Joan, I’m behind on sharing your SE post from Monday, but will get to both this afternoon! In the meantime, thanks so much for stopping by and taking time to comment! I really appreciate that. Here’s to a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!! πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This is an amazing post, Marcia. I learned so much! We follow eagles that nest close to us. Our binoculars are always close at hand, but I don’t believe we’ve seen an osprey. Now I’ll watch for them. I look forward to more of your #WildlifeWednesday posts! πŸ’—

    Liked by 1 person

    • So glad you enjoyed it, Gwen. Ospreys are beautiful and interesting to watch, though of course, nothing beats eagles for sheer emotional wallop! I do love our national bird! (Even if they do have a wimpy little call. πŸ˜€ )

      Thanks so much for stopping by and taking a moment to comment. I know how busy everyone is two days before Christmas, so I really appreciate it–even more than usual, and that’s a lot! πŸ˜€ Happy Holidays! πŸ˜€

      Liked by 1 person

    • You are very welcome, Jan. I’m glad you enjoyed the post! Next time, something without feathers. πŸ˜€ Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment, and very Happy Holidays to you! πŸ˜€ ❀

      Liked by 1 person

    • You sure do, Yvette, Ospreys and bald eagles both love it down there, for sure. And I agree with your assessment. Beautiful all the way around.

      Thanks so much for stopping by today and taking time to comment. Happy Holidays to you and yours! πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, but in southern CA, you have GOLDEN eagles, and they are splendid birds, too. The only one I’ve ever spotted was when birding around LA with my daughter some years ago. I nearly fell out of the car window trying to get a picture. πŸ˜€

      Glad you enjoyed the post, Miriam. Thanks so much for taking the time to stop by and comment. And a very Merry Christmas to you! πŸ™‚

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    • There are so many cool things about birds and other wildlife that many people don’t know, Priscilla, and a whole bunch I don’t know, either, though I’m always working on it. I just can’t resist sharing when I learn something interesting. The “talon trick” is amazing, isn’t it?

      Glad you enjoyed the post! Thanks for stopping by today, and a very Merry Christmas to you and yours! πŸ™‚

      Like

  5. I’m more familar with the Bald Eagles and love spotting them at our local lake. So I found it fascinating to learn more about the Ospreys which I don’t see as often. Thanks, Marcia.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Both are such beautiful and interesting birds, aren’t they? I’m glad I could share ospreys with you today, Denise, and that you may have learned some new things about them. Thanks for stopping by and taking a moment to comment, and Merry Christmas! πŸ™‚

      Like

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