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Osprey

Pandion haliaetus

Length: 20 - 24 inches Wingspan: 54 - 72 inches Seasonality: Migrant / Rare Breeder
ID Keys: White head with black facial stripe, dark body with white underparts, distinct bend in wing while flying

Osprey - Pandion haliaetusKnown locally as the "fish hawk", Ospreys are strongly associated with water, as their diet is almost exclusively fish.  Much better fishers than their larger cousin, in many areas Bald Eagles obtain much of their food by harassing Ospreys and stealing their prey.  Ospreys were nearly decimated by the effects of DDT and other pesticides by the middle of the 20th century, but have strongly rebounded over the past few decades.

Habitat: Can be found near many aquatic habitats, both fresh- and salt-water.  More common around coastlines, but also can be found near large rivers and lakes.

Diet: Nearly an exclusive diet of fish.  Will rarely feed on small birds, rodents, snakes, and lizards.

Behavior: Hunts by flying slowly over water, stopping to hover when prey is spotted, and plunging into the water feet first to catch the fish in its talons.  In courtship, pairs can often be seen circling together high in the sky.

Nesting: May and June

Song:  Osprey Song.

Migration: Summers throughout much of Canada, Alaska, and locally in the western U.S., the Great Lakes region, and near U.S. coastlines.  Nearly all birds migrate in the fall, with the exception of those in Florida and along the Gulf Coast.

Interactive eBird Map: Click here to access an interactive eBird map of Osprey sightings

Similar Species: Generally distinctive.

Status: Due to eggshell thinning caused by DDT and other pesticides, the Osprey was seriously endangered by the middle of the 20th century. With the banning of DDT, the Osprey has recovered in numbers and range in North America.

South Dakota "Hotspot": Osprey have nested below Pactola Dam in the Black Hills in recent years.  They can often be found below Missouri River Dams as they migrate in the fall.  I've particularly had good luck finding multiple birds below Gavin's Point Dam in the mid- to late-fall. 

Further Information: 1) USGS Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter, Osprey

2) BirdWeb - Osprey

3) Audubon Guide - Osprey

Photo Information: August 25th, 2004 -- Yellowstone National Park, Canyon Area -- Terry Sohl

Additional Photos: Click on the image chips or text links below for additional, higher-resolution Osprey photos.

 

Click on the range map for a higher-resolution view
Osprey - Pandion halietus - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Uncommon migrant throughout the state.  Rare summer breeding resident in the Black Hills.

Additional Osprey Photos
Click for a higher-resolution version of these photos
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