Ospreys are very common birds in North America. You can tell Ospreys from other birds by their 60-70 inch long wingspan, white body and brown wings. When flying, their tail feather forms a white and light brown fan. Bald Eagles and Ospreys have lots of similar qualities and tend to behave like each other in some ways but don’t worry, you will definitely be able to tell the difference between them by their looks.
Osprey Range in almost the entire North America continent and South America Continent. You will find Osprey located near a body of water whether it’s a lake or river. Each time I have seen in Osprey, they were flying above the river or very close to one. They can only dive about 3 feet bellow the water’s surface, which is why they hang around more shallow bodies of water.
In the Southern United States they are quite migratory and there are small winter flocks of 6-10 birds. If an Osprey encroach on their nesting territory, the Osprey whom nests there will chase the Osprey that invaded their territory and shoos him away.
In the breeding season, males Osprey will perform an aerial “sky-dance,” also known as, “fish-flight.” With his legs dangling he will often clutch a fish or nesting material in his talons, he alternates periods of hovering with slow, swoops of 600 feet or higher above the nest. He continues this display for about 10 minutes or longer, he repeats screaming calls while gradually descending undulation towards his nest.
Nesting and Nestlings:
Osprey like to nest near the water next to lakes, rivers and other bodies of water. I have seen 3 Osprey nests where I live and all of them are right by the river. You may think I am wrong because you may go to the river near you a lot and never see them next to the water, well the truth is they aren’t technically right by the water. Some are about 50-100 feet away, or they could be up to a mile away from water, but most are close enough to grab food for the nestlings without being away from their nest for too long.
Osprey like to nest in man-made structures that are high up. Their nests are usually on top of a poll that has a platform on top for them to put their nests, but I have also seen them on top of stadium lights. One Osprey nest I see being tended to, has a little bit of grass surrounding it but the highway makes a loop and surrounds the Osprey nest on all sides. I wondered why an Osprey would like to nest about 10 feet away from the highway. I realized if you stood below the platform and crossed the highway there is a bike path but after that there is a river, an easy access, source of food for the Osprey and their family. Osprey like to nest in open areas that are easy for them to access and don’t have a lot of trees.
Osprey’s nests can be about the same size as Bald Eagles’ nests but are usually not as large as a Bald Eagle’s nest. Compare the Osprey with the Bald Eagle by going to https://theoregonbirder.wordpress.com/2014/06/03/american-bald-eagles-clash-of-the-siblings/ When building the nest they will use all kinds of things to make their nests unique and fancy such as moss, bark, vines, grasses and twigs. An Osprey will usually have a nest about 6 inches deep and 2-5 feet in diameter, but just like Bald Eagles, Osprey add nest materials to their nests for many years and can end up with it being the size for a human to sit in.
The female will lay between 2 and 4 eggs. The eggs are a dull white color with brown specks on it. Her eggs are then incubated for 5 week and the large sturdy nest helps keep the eggs warm. The nestlings hatch and weigh 50-60 grams and fledge in approximately 2 months time. The young Raptors grow very quickly and most will live between 7 and 10 years old, few Osprey will live up to 20-25 years old.
Predator and Prey:
99% of the Osprey’s diet is fish, particularly large fish that vary from 9-13 inches will satisfy them. Sometimes they will come across and prey on small reptiles, rodents, rabbits, hares, amphibians, and other birds. Osprey have amazing eyes that adapt to their hunting lifestyle and can see the fish moving around underwater when he or she is hovering in the air. Like Bald Eagles, they lunge into the water with their feet hanging out ready to grasp its prey.
Osprey can live up to 20-25 years because growing up they are safe from a lot of mammal predators and once they find a nest after moving out of their parents nest, they will be safe again. Baby Osprey’s predators include raccoons and humans. One reason that they are safe from lots of mammals is because they nest in structures that is in no way climbable. They even nest in areas that don’t have a lot of trees so that one can not easily jump off a long branch onto the surface of the structure which they nest on.
If you would like to see the Osprey live go to http://cams.allaboutbirds.org/channel/27/Hellgate_Ospreys/