Identification: The Osprey is a fairly large hawk, 21-24 inches in length, with long, pointed wings spanning 54 to 72 inches. The head, throat and undersides are white; the back, nape, tail and back of the head are dark brown. A black eye stripe is located behind the eye. Look for the conspicuous crook in the wing and the black "wrist" mark in flight to differentiate this bird from the Bald Eagle.
Range & Habitat: The Osprey is found throughout the world except for the polar regions. In Florida, it is commonly sighted along the coast and near large lakes and rivers.
Reproduction: Osprey occasionally nest in large colonies. A bulky nest of sticks and trash is placed on the ground, on ledges, in trees or on telephone poles and other manmade structures. More building material is added to the nest each year it is in use. The nest resembles a Bald Eagle's nest, but is not usually as large. Incubation of the clutch, usually 3 white, buff or pink eggs, by both parents takes about 35 days. Young fly between 8 and 10 weeks of age.
Diet: The Osprey's diet consists almost exclusively of fish, but has been reported to include birds, turtles, snakes and small mammals.
Remarks: Osprey capture prey by striking the water after hovering 50-150 feet above the surface. This hawk has a reversible outer toe which can be rotated so that it extends to the rear of the foot. This facilitates fishing, as it permits the bird to use 2 strong hooked claws on either side of its prey. Unfortunately, Osprey have been persecuted by many fishermen who feared competition with these majestic birds. Hostile commercial fishermen have nailed fish to wooden boards and floated them in common Osprey areas, hoping to wipe out the bird's population. Such harassment is unwarranted because the Osprey eats mainly mullet and non-game fish of no commercial value. Eagles have also been known to harass Ospreys in flight, causing them to discard a recently captured fish. The eagle then pirates the fish and flies off.