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Birds of Prey: The Magnificent and Ever Present Osprey!

Updated: Aug 31, 2023

The Osprey, or "Fish Hawk", is a Bird of Prey and Can be Found Worldwide.

A perfect example of the Eastern Osprey with head turned to the right as it is perched on a tree branch.
Eastern Osprey (media by JC)

It wasn’t long ago I encountered the Red-Tailed Hawk, but I have become increasingly aware of the Osprey, another raptor or bird of prey. We have several local nests here in Michigan, and what was once a rare sighting event has become increasingly common from year to year.

It is essential to point out that although Osprey can be found nearly everywhere today, this was not always the case. A tremendous amount of damage caused by pesticides such as DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane) and PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) decimated this striking bird’s numbers across the globe. This was more of a long-term effect on the bird in that the chemical was ingested upon a successful fish catch. Over time the foreign chemical contributed to thinner-shelled eggs being laid by the bird, and ultimately the eggs were crushed when the bird tried to incubate them, killing the developing bird inside.

After banning these chemicals and carefully planned reintroductions, this bird's population began to rebound. A reintroduction involved finding a location where there was an abundance of Osprey and relocating them to areas where they were non-existent. This also involved erecting tall structures where the birds could build their nests.

The Osprey’s diet consists mainly of fish, hence why you will find them nesting near coastlines, rivers, lakes, and wetlands. Their curved, hook-like talons ensure their success at catching a fish during their often-seen water plunge. Their m-shaped wings ensure they achieve enough lift to lift back out of the water with the still-live fish. They are perfect fishing machines!

An Osprey darting into the water and catching a fish.
Water Plunge (media by JC)

Fast Facts:

Ospreys generally achieve a length of close to 2 feet and weigh up to 4.5 lbs. With wingspans exceeding 5 feet, these birds can live as long as 15 to 20 years. They nest in elevated artificial structures and natural settings such as cell towers, telephone poles, channel markers, and dead trees. They will return to these nests after migration year to year. They lay between 2 to 3 eggs once a year with an incubation time frame exceeding 35 days.

An Osprey emerging from the water after a successful fishing expedition.
Nice Catch (media by JC)

This bird's “natural” enemies are the bald eagle and the raccoon, funny enough. Being the bandits they are, Raccoons will often steel and eat the Osprey eggs. Bald Eagles have been known to attack and kill young and adult Ospreys. The not so “natural” enemy of Osprey continues to be mankind. This has been a triple-edged sword as humans had introduced the pesticides that nearly wiped out this bird’s population. Humans have also introduced the building blocks to the population’s resurgence, but another issue has been introduced-pollution.

To be more specific, litter can have a damaging effect, as was the case in Fort Myers, Florida. A continuously observed nest yielded a dead nestling attributed to plastic the adult birds had used to build the nest. As reported by Nathan Mayberg in the Fort Myers Beach News:

Among the garbage picked up by the osprey while building their nest was a child’s flop-flop, a few pairs of socks, plastic bags, rope, plastic lipstick tubes, rubber, and other clothing

An official crew arrived on the scene, removed the “litter,” tended to the remaining nestling, and introduced an orphan from another nest. Here was an instance where we atoned for our misdeed (Although the other nestling died, sorry to say). If ever there was a lesson to learn here, it is to “trash your trash”! These birds have enough to deal with; they don’t need us making it any harder for them!

A rear view of an Osprey with fish in tow.
Off To Dinner (media by JC)

If you would like to check in on the orphan’s progress or want to see the Osprey in its natural state, they have a live feed available to watch here:

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