Osprey

Pandion haliaetus

55-58cm

Appearance

This raptor is brown on its back and white underneath, except for a light brown chest band. The head is white with a black stripe that runs across the yellow eye and continues almost to the nape. The wings are dark with light lining, so it looks quite pale in flight. The tail is short and barred underneath. Juvenile birds have brown feathers and their dark markings are less obvious than in the adult.

Habitat

This bird is always associated with water; in Britain, it tends towards locations with large lakes and nearby older trees for nesting, particularly in Scotland. Large rivers and coastal lagoons are also potential habitats.

Character

Mostly a solitary bird except when nesting. Its long, narrow wings can appear bent at the joint. It hovers then drops rapidly from the air when hunting for fish, legs extended to grab prey; when successful it carries its prey headfirst.

Food

Diet mainly consists of fish such as perch, carp, pike, trout and salmon, but it does eat a few small mammals, reptiles and amphibians as well.

Breeding

The male is usually at the nest-site before the female so he can perform an aerial display for her benefit. Female lays 2 or 3 eggs in April and she incubates them with some help from the male for 37 days. Both adults feed the young, who can fly after about 50 days.

Population

This is a migratory visitor to Britain; it's estimated that 200 - 250 pairs nest in the region each year.

Observation Tips

In spring and autumn, birds often linger at lakes with abundant fish; this is a great time to see the spectacle of the Osprey hunting.

Voice

This is mostly a quiet bird, but it does have a variety of whistling calls, and can utter a high-pitched 'pieu-pieu-pieu' when near its nest.
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