The Osprey is also known by other names. It is sometimes called a seahawk, a fish eagle or a fishhawk. This fish eating bird of prey is from medium to large, and is present on all the continents except for Antarctica, though in South America it is considered a migrant and does not breed there.
It is probably so widely known because it is adaptable to a varied number of habitats. It will nest in any location as long as there is a body of water to provide a steady food supply within the area.
As a result of the Osprey having many characteristic that are unique, it was awarded a taxonomic genus of its own. It is a medium to large sized raptor that will reach 24 inches in length and may have a wingspan of up to 6 feet. It has a brown eyepatch and wings, a brown back, with lighter underparts and head.
These birds will weigh anywhere from three to four pounds. The four long feathers on their long wings, known as the “finger" feathers accompanied by quite a short tail give this bird an appearance that is very distinctive. It has a black beak, and the feet are white topped off with wickedly sharp black talons.
The adult male differs from the female usually only by a fainter, or non-existent breast band and by the fact that it usually has a slimmer, more streamlined body, and it’s wings are often much narrower. With mating pairs you can easily determine the sex of each, but with solitary birds it is much harder.
Fish are around 99% of this bird’s diet and they can take up to a 10 oz. Fish. They sight the prey when they are anywhere from 10 to 40 meters above the water. When prey is sighted they may hover for a moment and then fall into a dive.
They hit the water feet first and are capable of diving up to a depth of 3 feet. Once the have the fish it is some amount of trouble to get into the air again, so they turn it head forward to reduce resistance.
Osprey choose mostly freshwater lakes as a breeding ground, but may sometimes be found around coastal waters. Two of the most noted nesting sights are Rottnest Island in Western Australia, and Chesapeake Bay in the U.S. They usually begin breeding at the age of 3 to 4 years, but some habitats have seen the average reach up to seven years before sexual maturity.
Ospreys mate for life and the female lays from 2 to 4 eggs, which may take up to a month. Incubation time is about 5 weeks and the chicks at birth weigh only around 2 oz. After around eight weeks, they will fledge and be off on there own soon after. The normal life span of the Osprey is 20 to 25 years.