Osprey Journal

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Model: J-302
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Ospreys (Pandion haliaetus) are striking birds with contrasting dark and light feathers, bright yellow eyes and a distinctive brown eye stripe. Given the nickname Fish Hawk, they are specialized in every way for fishing and need two requirements to survive: open water and a strong tree or platform for nesting.

Ospreys’ feet have pads with little spines that enable them to grab and hold onto their slippery prey. They can swivel their outside toe to get a better grip and their high arching wing design gives them the power to haul out a fish weighing up to four pounds. Ospreys fly over the water’s surface looking for a meal, then hover, tuck their wings, and dive straight down, plunging feet-first to snatch their prey.

Breeding pairs migrate and winter separately but meet up again at their nest site in early March. The old nest is renovated with the male collecting dead limbs from trees while the female freshens up the lining with moss, bark and grass. The female will lay two or three eggs and she does almost all the incubating while the male fishes for both of them.

In the 1960’s, ospreys were almost completely wiped out in America due to the pesticide DDT which causes their egg shells to crack prematurely. But fortunately, in recent years their populations have started to recover due to conservation programs and a ban on the use of DDT and other chlorinated hydrocarbons. Once again ospreys are gracing U.S. shores. Listen for their nervous “creee” call and look for them sky-dancing or perched on a snag overlooking a seacoast, lake or river. But remember that their struggle is not over. DDT is still manufactured in the U.S. and used in South America where the birds overwinter. All life on this planet is interconnected.

artwork by John Sill © 2009
text by Kara Jean Hagedorn

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