Osprey (Pandion haliaetus), also known as sea hawks, are beautiful and unique birds of prey. They can be found worldwide and are most commonly seen around Catalina Island and Southern California during the winter months. Because osprey are piscivorous (fish-eating carnivores), they primarily live along coastlines, rivers, lakes, and other waterways surrounded by forested areas. Osprey are known to build huge nests on high surfaces, including telephone poles! They tend to mate for life.
99% of an osprey’s diet consists of fish. Because of this, these raptors have developed a series of adaptations that help them to snap up their main food source from under water. On average, osprey spend only twelve minutes hunting before successfully capturing a meal – think about that the next time you go fishing!
- Ospreys have specially designed feathers and nostrils that aid them when diving into the water (feet first) to catch a snack. The osprey’s feathers coverage (also known as plumage) is extremely dense and oily, which helps to keep water out when they make a splash fishing. Their nostrils have the unique ability to close while diving as well. These lucky birds never have to worry about getting water up their nose!
- Osprey have sharp spicules, or spines, on the underside of their feet to help them grip slippery fish. Osprey enjoy munching on medium-sized fish, like kelp bass! Look closely at the photo below, you can see tiny sharp spicules on the osprey’s foot!
- Did you notice that weird outer toe? Unlike most other raptors (aside from owls), it’s actually reversible! This allows the osprey to grasp wriggly fish with two talons in the front, and two talons in the back. In a resting position, an osprey’s foot will have three talons in the front and only one in the back.