Size: This bird of prey is 21 - 24 inches high, with a wingspan of 54 - 72 inches.
Range: Breeds from Alaska and Newfoundland south to Florida and the Gulf Coast, and California south to Argentina. In Delaware, it is a common sight along Delaware's Inland Bays (Rehoboth, Indian River, and Little Assawoman bays).
The osprey (Pandion haliaetus) is a large bird of prey, ranging from 21 - 24 inches in height. It is often referred to as the "fish hawk" because it is exclusively a fish eater and can be identified by its unique fishing style.
From heights of up to 100 feet in the air, the osprey searches for fish swimming near the surface of the water. When it locates a fish, it folds its wings into its body and dives head first toward the water. Just before it hits the water, the bird plunges feet first into the water (as depicted above) and grabs its prey. The soles of the osprey's feet are equipped with sharp, spiny projections that enable it to get a firm hold on the slippery fish. The osprey then flaps powerfully to break free of the water. It shakes the excess water from its feathers and carries the fish, head first, to a nearby tree or nest to feed.
- Large, narrow-winged hawk
- Flies on flat wings with distinct kink at elbow
- Wings taper to a rounded tip
- Short, hooked beak
- Loud, musical chirping
- White cap
- Dark brown eyeline broadening behind eye
- Dark brown nape, back, and upper wings
- Wings from below: flight feathers white barred with black, undersecondary coverts white and underprimary coverts black, producing rectangular black mark at wrist
- White chin, throat, breast, and belly
- Brown tail has a number of white bands
- Hovers and then plunges into water after fish
- During the spring, osprey seek and establish nesting territories. The male will find and defend a potential nesting site and court a female. The pair then constructs a large, stick nest, often measuring 4 feet across by 4 feet high. Osprey pairs will use this same nest season after season.
- A clutch of 2 - 4 eggs is typical. The eggs are white, pinkish, or cinnamon, and heavily marked with brown.
- Entirely fish