While there is much variation, the female tends to have a streakier breast than the male. The Osprey's talons are uniquely adapted for catching and carrying fish: their surfaces are rough, and their toes can be held with three forward and one back, or with two forward and two back, an arrangement seen in owls but not in other diurnal raptors. In flight, they are most often confused with gulls because of their long wings, which are bent at the wrist. However Ospreys have a bounce to their flight that gulls lack.
Rivers, lakes, coast. Found near water, either fresh or salt, where large numbers of fish are present. May be most common around major coastal estuaries and salt marshes, but also regular around large lakes, reservoirs, rivers. Osprey are migratory with the majority wintering south of of the US border. Migrating Ospreys are sometimes seen far from water, even over the desert. Theirs is a major success story with populations rebounding after a serious decline in the late 20th century which was reversed with the ban of DDT in 1972. It is the only species in its family, and it is found worldwide.
Diet is almost entirely fish 4”-12” long, type depends on the region. Feeding behavior is highly effective, flying slowly over water scanning for fish near the surface. Once it has identified its prey it plunges feet-first into the water grasping the fish in its talons and flying away with the first facing heat first to make it more aerodynamic. Sometimes eagles will chase down an osprey hoping to dislodge their catch.
Occasionally they will feed on small mammals, birds or reptiles; perhaps when their source of fish is scarce.
Ospreys form pair bonds through aerial flight displays and courtship feeding. Nesting locations can be the top of a large tree (often with a dead or broken top) not far from water. Also nests can be on utility poles, duck blinds, and other structures, including poles put up for them. Both sexes are involved with nest construction and may use the same nest for many breeding seasons. When this happens nests become huge with the addition of fresh materials added at the beginning of the season. The nest, a bulky pile of sticks is lined with smaller materials. Nests may be more than seven feet across and over five feet deep.
Generally 2-4 eggs are laid. Both members of the pair incubate the eggs for 38-43 days. After the young hatch, the female stays with them, and the male brings food. Once the young can be left alone, both parents provide food. The young do not fledge until they are 44-59 days old. Osprey eggs do not hatch all at once. Rather, the first chick emerges up to five days before the last one. The older hatchling dominates its younger siblings, and can monopolize the food brought by the parents. If food is abundant, chicks share meals in relative harmony; in times of scarcity, younger ones may starve to death.
No known zoonotic diseases