Ospreys

Ospreys are medium-large fish-eating birds of prey in the genus Pandion.

The osprey or more specifically the western osprey (Pandion haliaetus) — also called sea hawk, river hawk, and fish hawk — is a diurnal, fish-eating bird of prey with a cosmopolitan range. It is a large raptor, reaching more than 60 cm (24 in) in length and 180 cm (71 in) across the wings. It is brown on the upper parts and predominantly greyish on the head and underparts.

A bird of prey coloured white and brown
credit: Kris Perlberg

The osprey tolerates a wide variety of habitats, nesting in any location near a body of water providing an adequate food supply. It is found on all continents except Antarctica, although in South America it occurs only as a non-breeding migrant.

As its other common names suggest, the osprey’s diet consists almost exclusively of fish. It possesses specialised physical characteristics and exhibits unique behaviour to assist in hunting and catching prey. As a result of these unique characteristics, it has been given its own taxonomic genus, Pandion and family, Pandionidae.

Three subspecies are usually recognized; one of the former subspecies, cristatus, has recently been given full species status and is referred to as the eastern osprey. Despite its propensity to nest near water, the osprey is not classed as a sea eagle.