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Osprey at Putnam, US-WV.

Two Osprey seen at Winfield Locks & Dam, Putnam, US-WV


The Osprey - Pandion haliaetus - is found on all continents except Antarctica. There are four subspecies of the osprey, each occupying a different part of its overall range and differing slightly in size and appearance: Pandion haliaetus haliaetus, P. h. carolinensis, P. h. cristatus and P. h. ridgwayi. It tolerates a wide variety of habitats and is typically found near still or slow-flowing water, including both salt water and fresh water, and thus occurs in a wide variety of habitats such as lakes, rivers, wooded swamps with open water, and shorelines, from cliffs to salt-flats.


The upperparts are a deep, glossy brown, while the breast is white and sometimes streaked with brown, and the underparts are pure white. The head is white with a dark mask across the eyes, reaching to the sides of the neck. The irises are golden to brown, and the transparent nictitating membrane is pale blue. The bill is black, with a blue cere and the feet are white with black talons. A short tail and long, narrow wings, give it a very distinctive appearance. The sexes fairly similar. The juvenile is fairly similar to the adult but the head is more darkly-streaked and the upperparts appear scaled with cream and pale rufous.


Ospreys have high-pitched, whistling voices. Their calls can be given as a slow succession of chirps during flight or as an alarm call—or strung together into a series that rises in intensity and then falls away. A series of sharp whistles, described as cheep, cheep or yewk, yewk.


Fish make up 99% of the diet. They occasionally prey on rodents, hares, amphibians, birds and small reptiles. Ospreys have vision that is well adapted to detecting underwater objects from the air and are well adapted to the mainly fish diet, with 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 usually mate for life and begin breeding around the age of three to four years. The Platform nest is built with sticks, lined with bark and grasses. The female lays two to four whitish eggs, with bold splotches of reddish-brown. Incubation takes about 5 weeks and the chicks fledge in about 69 days after hatching.

Conservation Status – Least concern

They have an exceptionally large range, however there is evidence for regional declines around the world. These majestic birds have rebounded in numbers following the ban on the pesticide DDT in North America. Ospreys are a conservation success story and their populations are still growing, aided by pesticide bans and the construction of artificial nest sites in North America.


Ask Aves Birding Tours/Safaris/Adventures to create a custom tour for you to see these majestic birds of prey or book one of the following Aves Birding Tours/Safaris/Adventures  in summer: -

Aves Eastern Cape Birding Tour / Safari / Adventure.

Aves Highlands / Tembe Birding Tour / Safari / Adventure.

Aves KZN Birding Tour / Safari / Adventure.

Aves North East Birding Tour / Safari / Adventure.

Aves Western Cape Birding Tour / Safari / Adventure.

Aves West Coast Birding Tour / Safari / Adventure.


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