do osprey eat other birds

Fish make up 99% of the osprey diet. Osprey are not particular about what fish species they eat and will generally eat what is most easily accessible. On rare occasions, Ospreys have also been known to prey on rodents, rabbits, hares, other birds, and small amphibians and reptiles.

North American Ospreys have been known to eat more than 80 different species of fish. Usually, there are two or three fish species that dominate the diet of ospreys in a specific area. Trout, cutthroat, and bull trout are native fish species of the Bitterroot River where Hal and Harriet fish. In addition, rainbow, brook, and brown trout have also been found in the Bitterroot River.

One might think that all this time around water would mean that ospreys drink the stuff, but they typically don’t. It seems that their diet of fresh fish gives them enough water.

Ospreys are not known to cache fish. Leftovers are sometimes ignored and left in the nest. It is not uncommon for a ranch hand to find leftover fish in the horse corrals.

Ospreys hunt in flight; it is rare to see them hunt from a perch. Gliding 30-100 feet above the water, they use their excellent eyesight to look for fish just under the water’s surface. Once they’ve spotted their prey, they hover above it, then dive towards the water. At the last moment, before hitting the water, the osprey swings its legs forward and bends its wings back, so that its feet hit the water first. There is often a wild display of splashing and struggling as the bird makes contact with a fish.

Even though ospreys have nostrils that open and close and thick plumage to protect them during a dive, they can’t swim. They must use their powerful wings to lift them out and away from the water with their prey in their talons. On a rare occasion, an osprey will drown after getting its talons caught in a fish that is too heavy to lift.

If you are lucky enough to see an osprey catch a fish, you will notice that its wing beats are almost horizontal when it is lifting the fish out of the water. This is when some of the greatest acrobatics occur, because once the osprey clears the water with a fish, it may re-position the fish so that the catch is headfirst to cut down on wind resistance.

Occasionally, you may witness other acrobatics. Ospreys and eagles fish in similar habitats. Sometimes an eagle will battle an osprey for its catch, forcing the osprey to drop the fish. If you are lucky enough, you may witness the eagle catch the osprey’s fish in mid-air.

Hunting success depends on the skills of individual birds, weather, and water conditions (like the tide in coastal areas). Still, dives are quite successful. At the lower end, 1 in 4 dives will result in catching a fish. In ideal conditions, ospreys will catch a fish 3 out of 4 times.

Since they rely on fish as the main source of their diet, ospreys are closely associated with water. They fish in both fresh and salt water; hence they can be found near rivers, lakes, large stream, reservoirs, coastal estuaries, salt marches, and ocean shores.

Humans and wildlife are intricately connected to each other and to the earth, which we all share. Our ability to manipulate the environment to seemingly better suit our needs, and the close connection human actions have with wildlife populations, presents us with a great responsibility and unique challenge.

The earth’s ecosystems are so intricately woven and delicately balanced that even seemingly small changes or disruptions can have long-reaching, devastating effects. The effect of human actions on wildlife became clearly evident in the 1950s and 1960s when populations of ospreys and other raptors, including eagles, brown pelicans and peregrine falcons, in the United States dramatically plummeted to nearly unrecoverable low levels. Scientists linked the population declines to the widespread use of DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane)as a pesticide. To reduce insect damage and enhance productivity, agricultural crops across the country were sprayed with DDT. Water runoff from snowmelt, rain and irrigation carried the deadly chemical into water systems where fish and other aquatic organisms were poisoned. Also, contaminated insects and plants were eaten by fish and small birds, thus passing the poison directly to them. Those fish and birds were then eaten by raptors, which accumulated the chemical in their bodies. The accumulation of chemicals in organisms in increasingly higher concentrations at successive trophic levels, or higher steps in a food chain, is called biomagnification. Scientists found that DDT accumulates in the fatty tissues of birds, mammals and fish and that it passes through food chains. In other words, in the case of ospreys, the birds fed on large quantities of fish, which had eaten insects.

Since ospreys can live almost anywhere there is shallow unfrozen water with safe nesting sites and plenty of fish, it’s no wonder that ospreys are found on every continent except Antarctica.dependence on water makes them one of the most widely distributed predatory birds. Ospreys that breed near water that freeze in winter, such as in the norther latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere, migrate in the spring to their summer breeding habitats and return to southern waters during the winters. I is only during migration that ospreys are found distant from water.

In North America, ospreys are found from Alaska and Newfoundland all the way south to Florida and the Gulf Coast. Montana serves primarily as a breeding ground for the industrious birds. Below is a copy of the map from Cornell University’s website AllAboutBirds.org .

Notice that Western Montana falls contains only breeding pairs of ospreys who migrate to southern areas during the winter, non-breeding season.

Most ospreys breed in one location and spend winter in another. In parts of Australia and the southern United States, however, some birds will remain at the nest site year-round. Ospreys who do not migrate save vast amounts of energy and can focus on foraging, nest building, and raising their young. Non-migratory populations breed between December and March, while migratory populations often don’t return to the nest to start breeding until April or May. In addition, the early bird gets the worm, or in the case of ospreys, the non-migrating ospreys get to choose the best nesting sites near the coasts.

Scientists learn about bird migration by placing bands on the leg of birds that do not inhibit them in any way, yet allow scientists to track their movements. Occasionally, scientists also affix small radio transmitters on the back of birds to follow their daily movements.

While we’d love to have our beloved ospreys at Dunrovin all year, like most northwestern ospreys, they migrate for the winter. We’re not sure where they go, because they are not banded or radio tagged, but here is some great information from Dr. Erick Greene of the Montana Osprey Project (University of Montana) regarding osprey migration in 2013:

To give you an idea of how spread out osprey migration can be, in collaboration with our research colleagues, last summer we put satellite transmitters on some ospreys at two nests about ten miles from the Hellgate nest in Missoula, Montana. The adult female spent the entire winter in one very small bay on the Nicaragua-Costa Rica border on the Pacific Ocean. The bay must be a great place to fish, since she barely flew more than several hundred yards every day all winter. At about 8 AM on 29 March she started flying north. She is headed back up towards Montana, but she is still in Mexico now. Her mate spent the winter in a mangrove swamp in Mexico on the Gulf of California. He just started north a few days ago, and he is crossing the Sonoran desert now.

Often, the female osprey will take some of her young with her on the beginning of her migration to show them the ropes. Usually, they split up along the way. The male adult osprey will stay with any lingering young until they are ready to leave the nest. In the summer of 2012, the adult male at the Hellgate nest in Missoula, Montana stayed to help one of his offspring who had a wing injury.

In North America, young ospreys follow the coastline south to Central and South America in their first fall migration. Typically, young ospreys will remain south for one-and-a-half years before returning North to establish a home territory, seek a mate, and build their first nest. Most young osprey pairs will not successfully breed until they are three years old.

Alaska Department of Fish and Game

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All continents in the world have ospreys, with the exception of Antarctica.

When soaring overhead, ospreys can be identified by their long, uneven wings. Despite their size, ospreys can reach a height of up to 5 1/2 feet (1 67 meters), they only weigh about 3 pounds (1. 4 kg). An osprey at rest may appear from a distance to be similar to a bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus). Upon closer inspection, one can see that the osprey differs from a bald eagle in that it has darkly barred wings and tail, a black bill, and bluish-gray lower legs. Ospreys have white undersides to their bodies and wings, and their white heads are contrasted with a dark patch on their cheeks. Osprey females are comparatively smaller than males, but they can sometimes be identified by a darker feather “necklace” on their upper breast.

Most likely, a breeding pair mates for life and returns annually to the same nest site. It takes both adults to build the large stick nest, which has a diameter of 1-2 meters and is three to six feet tall. The nest is on the ground, on top of trees, posts, pinnacles of rock, or close to water. The nest bowls are lined with soft grasses. The female lays two to four eggs in mid-May, and both parents incubate them for five weeks. Osprey chicks are defenseless and covered in gray down when they hatch. The male provides food for the family, while the females closely protect their nestlings from the elements and potential predators. The nestlings start practicing their wing-flapping at four to five weeks old, and by mid-August, they are ready to take flight at seven to eight weeks. Young ospreys are almost fully grown when they leave the nest, but all of their back feathers have buffy fringes that set them apart from their parents. Ospreys have been known to live for 25 years.

The diet of ospreys is almost entirely fish, which sets them apart from other raptors. They can only capture fish that are swimming within three feet (1 m) of the water’s surface, but they are opportunistic in the species they capture. They rarely take fish over 16 inches (40 cm) long. Ospreys occasionally capture small mammals, birds, amphibians, and reptiles. Anglers occasionally complain that ospreys are taking fish away from them, but since ospreys only require one 10-inch (25 cm) fish per day, it is unlikely that they have a significant effect on fish populations. Ospreys hunt while in the air, looking for fish beneath the surface of the water. When a fish is spotted, it will dive towards the water, swinging its legs forward and lowering its talons into the water just before it reaches the surface. Fish are carried back to the nest, where they are eaten head first.

Some migratory osprey populations migrate to Mexico and Central and South America for the winter. By October, the majority of ospreys leave Alaska and return in late April.

All continents in the world have ospreys, with the exception of Antarctica. With the exception of the Aleutians, Kodiak Island, the Alaska Peninsula, the Seward Peninsula, and the Kenai, they span Alaska from the northwest (base of the Seward Peninsula) east to Canada, and south to Southeast Alaska. Concentrations occur in Hoholitna rivers, Northway-Tetlin area. Additionally, they breed in the Tanana River basin, Southeast Alaska, the Matanuska-Susitna Valley, and other interior river valleys.

Ospreys favor environments with lots of shallow water and lots of fish. They frequently constructed their nests atop small islands or other structures that are out of the way of predators over bodies of water. Common nesting locations are man-made structures like power poles and other sturdy constructions.

Observe that only breeding pairs of ospreys reside in Western Montana Falls; during the winter, when breeding is not occurring, they migrate to southern regions.

Occasionally, you may witness other acrobatics. Ospreys and eagles fish in similar habitats. An eagle may occasionally fight an osprey for its catch, compelling it to let go of the fish. If you’re fortunate enough, you might see the eagle midair snatching the fish from the osprey.

Ospreys are not known to cache fish. Leftovers are sometimes ignored and left in the nest. A ranch hand will frequently discover leftover fish in the horse corrals.

Over 80 distinct species of fish have been observed to be consumed by North American ospreys. Typically, ospreys in a given area primarily consume two or three species of fish. Hal and Harriet fish for native species of trout, cutthroat, and bull trout in the Bitterroot River. Additionally, the Bitterroot River has been reported to contain brook, brown, and rainbow trout.

If you are fortunate enough to witness an osprey catching a fish, you will observe that as it raises the fish out of the water, its wing beats are nearly horizontal. Some of the greatest acrobatics happen at this point because, in order to reduce wind resistance, the osprey may reposition the fish after it has cleared the water with it.

FAQ

Do osprey prey on birds?

Almost entirely fish. Typically feeds on fish 4-12″ long. Type of fish involved varies with region; concentrates on species common in each locale, such as flounder, smelt, mullet, bullhead, sucker, gizzard shad. Aside from fish, rarely eats small mammals, birds, or reptiles, perhaps mainly when fish are scarce.

Do osprey eat squirrels?

Wiley and Lohrer (1973) reviewed records of non-fish prey taken by Ospreys. These included mammals as large as ground squirrels and rabbits, as well as a variety of birds, reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates.

Do osprey eat crows?

Journal of Raptor Research (2022) 56 (1): 154–155. On 6 March 2021, Carol Jean Stalun of Alexandria, Virginia, photographed an Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) with a crow (Corvus sp.) in its talons. To my knowledge, this is the first photographically documented case of an Osprey preying on a live, wild bird.

Do eagles and osprey get along?

Rather than doing their own hunting, bald eagles will sometimes harass ospreys, stealing fish directly from their talons or making them drop fish they’ve just caught, grabbing the fish in midair. Bald eagles are also known to raid osprey nests and snatch fledglings, whether small or just ready to fly.