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Photo of Osprey in flight with fish in its talons
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OSPREY

The Osprey pair arrived back from their winter vacation down south on April 4th and we sighted the first egg on April 21st. They have been using this nest since 1995.   In 1999 the nest was cleaned, and in 2006 a new nest was installed (see "The Ospreycam Story").

Last year the pair nested successfully, and the young fledged around August.  Hopefully we can count on an engaging view of the Osprey pair's daily life preparing for and raising a family throughout another five months this year.


The Osprey is also commonly called the fish or sea hawk.

Identification
Body color is dark brown above and white below.  The head is mostly white with a dark brown stripe extending from behind the eye to the body. In flight, it could be mistaken for a juvenile Bald Eagle. The body length is about 25".  The wingspan ranges from 58" to 72".  As with most raptors, the female can be slightly larger. 

Natural History
The Osprey is rarely seen far from water saltwater or freshwater, except during migration. Fish make up 99% of its diet and it can handle fish over 4 pounds in weight, but is not picky about smaller ones. Instances are known of Ospreys diving on fish too large for them, getting their talons stuck in the fish's flesh, and being dragged under the water and drowned.  They have vision that is well adapted to detecting underwater objects from the air.  Prey is first sighted when the Osprey is about 130 feet above the water.  It generally soars over the water searching for fish, and when the prey is located, it dives and strikes with its talons—a dramatic sight, if you are lucky enough to see it happen. The Osprey is unique in that it is the only raptor that has reversible talons specifically designed to grab fish out of the water.  Its diet is not limited to fish, however.  On occasion Ospreys have been known to eat snakes, amphibians, and smaller vertebrates.

Reproduction and nesting
The large, bulky nest is built by both the male and female and may be reused for many years. The nest is built on the top of large snags, conifers, cliffs, rocky outcrops, bridges, power-poles and on artificial nesting platforms. New materials are added each year; so older nests may weigh hundreds of pounds and be several feet tall. The female lays 3 eggs.  She incubates them for about 33 days, and the male may also take turns.  The adults care for the young for 48-59 days. A brood of three chicks needs about six pounds of fish daily.  Usually only one or two young fledge successfully.

Range
The North American Osprey is a migratory bird.  Those that nest in Washington primarily migrate to southern California, Arizona or Latin America for the winter.  The Osprey is one of the world's most widespread birds, occurring on all continents except Antarctica and many islands. Originally, it nested widely across North America, but contamination with the pesticide DDT led to population decrease and range reduction.   Populations have since rebounded.