Species profile

Name: the osprey (Pandion haliaetus) – or western osprey, sea hawk, river hawk, or fish hawk – is a bird of prey that specialises in eating fish.

Appearance: ospreys are a deep, glossy brown on top and white underneath. They have white heads with dark masks across their eyes. Their tails are short and they have long, narrow wings.

Size: they are large birds reaching around 60 cm long and 1.8 m across the wings.

Diet: fish make up 99% of the osprey’s diet. They will eat almost any fish they can find between around 150 to 300 g in weight. To catch their prey they hover over the water before plunging feet first after them, often submerging their entire bodies in the water.

Did you know: beings specialist fish eaters, ospreys have a number of adaptations to help them catch their prey. These include reversible toes which have spines on the end to help them grab slippery fish, specialised nostrils which they can close to keep water out during dives, and thick oily feathers which stop them from getting waterlogged. Thanks to these adaptations they have their own unique taxonomic genus!

Location: ospreys breed near freshwater lakes and rivers, and sometimes coastal waters. They can be found on all continents except Antarctica, happily nesting pretty much anywhere near a body of water that has an adequate food supply. Thanks to this adaptability, they are one of the most widely distributed birds in the world.

Where to see ospreys

According to reports submitted to WildSide, you can see ospreys in the following places:

Place Chance to see User rating No. reports
Lake District
very good
Loch Ness
very low
very good

Photo credit: IainPoole under a Creative Commons licence from Pixabay

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