Among the most often seen of our raptors, the osprey is found on every continent except Antarctica. It is one of the most specialized of our raptors, having evolved to be a predator of almost unparalleled efficiency of its chosen diet, fish, which makes up at least 95% of its diet. It's feet have spiny pads that help hold slippery fish in place and an adjustable third toe that can be either in the three forward one back formation as in hawks or the two forward two back configuration as in most owls.<>
For its size, the osprey is one of our most unaggressive hawks, but it does hold its own against marauding crows and ravens in its extremely conspicuous large nest usually placed in as tall a tree as possible. I have personally seen a female rise off the nest where she was incubating eggs and manage to come so close to stiking two big crows in one dive, that they flew away in a hurry, not a normal reaction among crows, who usually annoy their quarry to distraction. Its biggest problem is the bald eagle, who steals its catch whenever possible. It is a testimony to its hunting prowess that it can survive at all where there are eagles around.<>
The osprey is also among the most adaptable of our raptors. It readily uses nesting platforms close to human habitation and many appear quite unperturbed by human presence. The pair who nest just a few feet down the river on this property routinely scream at people passing below their nest on the river, but they keep coming back to that nest, adding a new nesting platform every year, so it is quite huge. They also pass right over the house quite regularly and make a sweet chirping sound like a songbird.
The osprey is related to the buteos and often can be seen soaring over water. If you can't get a good look at it, one way to tell an osprey in flight is by the distinct bend of the wing. Is also changes the shape of its wings more obviously than other hawks for different purposes in flight, such as the dive and the downward glide, so study an osprey in flight is a study of flight itself. The dive of an osprey is thrilling to watch as it folds back its wings, submerges its whole body underwater leaving as little as a foot of wing above the surface.
The osprey is very migratory since it requires open water to fish. Because of its adaptable nature, it nests quite far north in Canada and can winter along the south Atlantic, Pacific and gulf coasts of our southern states and as far south as northern Argentina. The only requirement is open water full of fish.
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