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Osprey

(Fish Hawk)

Order: Falconiformes
Family: Accipitridae
Genus: Pandion
Species: haliaetus

Gr. phalkon  falcon
La. falcula, falcis  small sickle
     (a reference to talons)
La. forma  form, shape, kind
La. accipere  to grasp, take
La. accipiter  hawk
Gr. Pandion  mythological King
      of Athens
Gr. hals  sea
Gr. aetos  eagle
Gr. haliaetos  osprey
La. haliaetos  sea-eagle

 
 
Osprey, Frank C. Hennessey, Birds of Eastern Canada, P.A. Traverner, 1922

 
F.C. Hennessey  

 
Two feet long, its narrow wings span five feet. Top of head, throat, breast and belly white. Upper parts grayish brown.

Inhabits inland waters and coast lands from Alaska, Hudson Bay and Newfoundland south to the Caribbean and northern South America.

USGS Osprey Map

Builds huge nests, often near other Osprey nests, of sticks, bones, seaweed, even old shoes in trees from ten to seventy five feet high, on the ground in colonies on isolated islands, and in parks, refuges and towns where they are accommodated with platforms.
 

Lays two or three, rarely four creamy white speckled eggs which hatch after about four weeks incubation and young leave the nest in about another two months. Adults mate for life and return and add to the same nests year after year such that the nests may increase to large proportions.

Flies slowly over the water searching for fish, its sole food. When it spots one near the surface, it hovers for an instant, then plunges splashing into the water, sometimes disappearing for a moment and finally rising with its prey in flight to its favorite perch.

Below its nest accumulates a pile of bones, scales, and indigestible parts.

Osprey, Archibald Thorburn, The Birds of the British Isles, I, T.A. Coward, 1921

Archibald Thorburn

 
If a successful hunt is observed by a Bald Eagle it will chase the Osprey until it drops its meal. If the Bald Eagle persists, several Ospreys may band together and drive it away. Occasionally an Osprey sinks its talons into a fish so large it drowns the bird, sometimes both floating to shore still attached.
 
Thanks to the prohibition of DDT and helpful nesting platforms, the Osprey has rebounded since its population decline in the middle of the 20th century. Had there been an Endangered Species Act at the time, it surely would have been on the list.
 
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recommended a square platform 48 inches on each side for the Osprey.   They often attempt to nest on chimneys and many people provide platforms where Ospreys are common.
 

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