11 Facts About Ospreys | dental floss

Ospreys are also known as “fish hawks” and “sea eagles,” names referring to their diet and habitat, and “bald buzzards” to describe their white-headed appearance. Here are a few facts about this unique bird of prey.

1. Ospreys live on every continent except Antarctica.

Ospreys are among the most widespread birds of prey. In North America, most ospreys spend the warmer months in Canada, Alaska, the East Coast, and parts of the Pacific Northwest, and then migrate to southern California and the Gulf Coast during the winter. They are found in swamps and wetlands, along rivers and streams, and on seacoasts.

2. osprey means “bird of prey”.

osprey originated from the Anglo-French word in the mid-14th century ospreywhich itself is derived from the medieval Latin phrase advise prede or “bird of prey”. The first part of its scientific name, Pandion haliaetuscomes from the name of the mythological kings of Athens and the second part from the Greek words for “sea” (halos) and “eagle” (aetus).

3. Fish make up more than 99 percent of an osprey’s diet.

Unlike other birds of prey, which will feed on whatever is available, ospreys only eat fish. But they’re not picky when it comes to fish: in North America, they’re known to consume 80 freshwater and saltwater species. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, an osprey’s typical prey measures between 6 and 13 inches in length and weighs less than a pound, although exceptions have been documented. In 2020, beachgoers in South Carolina captured video of an osprey grabbing what appears to be a small shark (above).

4. Ospreys don’t need to drink water.

Their fishy diet generally provides all the hydration they need.

5. Ospreys catch prey in a unique way.

To locate prey, ospreys glide high in the air over shallow water, using their keen vision to search for fish. When they spot one, they dive to the surface and stretch their legs and claws forward just before hitting the water. Once the fish is caught, the bird flaps its long wings to perch. Unlike eagles or hawks, ospreys always catch and hold their prey upside down to reduce drag when flying [PDF].

6. Ospreys’ feet help them fish.

Ospreys have several adaptations that make them skilled anglers. One is ‘facultative zygodactyly’, the ability to rotate one of their three front toes backwards to grip slippery fish more securely. The inner surface of their feet is covered with tiny spikes called spikes, which also give them more traction when grabbing prey with their long, curved, and very sharp claws.

7. Ospreys add litter to their nests.

Ospreys build large nests, called eyries, on trees, telephone poles, buoys, or man-made nesting platforms near wetlands. The nests are made of sticks, reeds, and grasses, and those located near towns may also contain nylon netting, plastic bags, or other debris. Once they have successfully laid and reared eggs in their nest, ospreys return there year after year, adding additional hives each time. But if for some reason a pair of ospreys aren’t raising chicks, they’ll build a new nest nearby, called a “frustration nest.”

8. Osprey nests are hot real estate for other animals.

Osprey nests are huge: a newly built nest can be 5 feet wide and 2 feet deep, and one that has been expanded for several years can be 6.5 feet deep. Other species often use these sturdy structures for their homes. Build cave-nesting birds like tree swallows and common grackles her Nests in them while gray herons, bald eagles, common ravens and great horned owls raise chicks on them in winter when the adult ospreys are in warmer climes.

9. People used to collect osprey eggs as a hobby.

Amateur naturalists in the 19th century dabbled in oology, collecting and studying wild bird eggs. The fad has led to sharp declines in some bird populations, including osprey, whose cream-colored eggs are mottled red, gray, or brown and are about the size of chicken eggs. In Britain, where osprey populations have yet to recover from the effects of Victorian oologists, legislation protecting wild birds and prohibiting egg collection has been in place since 1880. In the United States, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 prohibits the collection, possession, purchase, sale, or transportation of wild bird eggs, among many other provisions.

10. Ospreys came back from the brink of extinction.

Egg gathering and hunting was the primary threat to osprey prior to the introduction of DDT in the mid-20th century. The pesticide caused eggs to have thin shells and break easily, and the populations of many raptors, including osprey, in the US declined sharply between the 1950s and 1970s. Fortunately, the ban on DDT in 1972 and the placement of artificial nesting platforms helped the ospreys recover. Their total population grew by 2.5 percent each year between 1966 and 2015, although they remain more populous on the coasts than inland.

11. Climate change could drive ospreys north.

Ospreys will inhabit almost anywhere there is shallow water with plentiful fish and suitable structures for their nests, but the warming climate may shift their current range north of the US. The National Audubon Society model predicts that if we maintain current warming trends, osprey populations will lose habitat around the mid-Atlantic, Great Lakes, and upper Great Plains and gain habitat in subarctic Canada. With a global temperature increase of 2°C, which could occur as early as 2050, the effect will be even more drastic.

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