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. 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.)
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.
Clearly the osprey is NOT fooling around, here. 😀
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, then 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, 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–
–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!
And remember to look UP now and then. You never know what might be passing overhead! 🙂