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Osprey

Osprey, also called Sea Hawks or Fish Eagles  

 An offering of fish from the male Osprey, photo by Ken Rasmussen Sr.

Osprey begin to return to the rivers and lakes in the area around March to mate and build their nest.  This large raptor is sometimes confused with the bald eagle although similar in size, the Osprey has a white breast and black streak at the eyes.  Osprey mate for life building a single nest close to a river or lake that they return to every season.  During the mating the male calls out repeated whistles that can be heard from a distance.  He will fly in the air often holding an offering of fish, hovers over his mate and then folds his wings in and dive towards his mate.  This is done repeatedly until mating occurs.  A average of 3 eggs will be laid over a period of several days and baby chicks will hatch within 32 to 43 days.  These hungry chicks will consume an average of 6 fish a day.
                                                
Mating pair of Osprey, photo by Ken Rasmussen Sr.

These birds have a diet exclusively of fish unless fish populations are not available, then they will resort to eating other birds and small mammals.  Osprey can be seen sometimes hovering as high as 100 feet above water searching for fish, when a fish is spotted the osprey tucks its wings in halfway folded and dives talons outstretched to the water.  The talons of the Osprey have been adapted to grab fish with one toe that can face either frontward or backward,  when the bird grabs a fish the 2 sets of toes face each other forming 2 pairs of locking hooks as it grabs for the head of the fish.  Osprey cannot swim, however, they can remain submerged briefly.  On occasion an osprey will drown by trying to bring fish back that are too large, or by not grabbing the head of a larger fish and the fish dragging it down into the water.  If one osprey dies during nesting, the prospects of raising their chicks is very unlikely.  Sooner or later the remaining adult will have to search for food leaving the nest vulnerable to predators.  At 44 to 60 days the chicks have grown their feathers and are old enough to fly, but will still rely on their parents for food and protection.