12 Interesting Facts About The Osprey

One of my favorite sights is seeing the white and black osprey flying across a deep blue sky broken by white fair weather cumulus clouds. It’s just beautiful. When you see an osprey circling above, take a close look at its talons. You may just find that it’s showing an unlucky fish what it is like to fly above the trees.

It seems that there is always more to learn about the Osprey. Here are a few interesting pieces of information you may enjoy:

  • Osprey are sometimes known as sea hawks, fish eagles or fish hawks
  • The Osprey has a worldwide distribution and is found in temperate and tropical regions of all continents except Antarctica.
  • Fish make up 99% of the Osprey’s diet. Occasionally, the Osprey may prey on rodents, rabbits, hares, amphibians, other birds, and small reptiles
  • The Osprey and Owls are the only raptors whose outer toe is reversible, allowing them to grasp their prey with two toes in front and two behind.
  • Osprey typically take fish weighing 5–10 oz and about 10–14 in in length, but the weight can range from 2–68 oz. Virtually any type of fish in that size range are taken.
  • The Osprey is particularly well adapted for catching fish. They have reversible outer toes, sharp spicules on the underside of the toes, closable nostrils to keep out water during dives, and backwards-facing scales on the talons which act as barbs to help hold its catch.
  • Ospreys’ hunting success rate is quite high and has been reported to range from 50% to 80% for adults.
  • The typical lifespan of an Osprey is 7–10 years, though rarely individuals can grow to be as old as 20–25 years. The oldest European wild Osprey on record lived to be over thirty years of age
  • In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the main threats to Osprey populations were egg collectors and the hunting adult birds
  • There was a medieval belief that fish were so mesmerized by the Osprey that they turned belly-up in surrender, and this is referenced by Shakespeare in Act 4 Scene 5 of Coriolanus:

I think he’ll be to Rome
As is the osprey to the fish, who takes it
By sovereignty of nature.

  • The Osprey is depicted as a white eagle in heraldry, and more recently has become a symbol of positive responses to nature, and has been featured on more than 50 postage stamps
  • The Osprey was used as the inspiration for the naming of the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks

The chart below shows the numbers of Osprey that have been counted at the Picatinny Peak, Raccoon Ridge, Scott’s Mountain, Sunrise Mountain, and Wildcat Ridge hawk watches in Northwest New Jersey.



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