Osprey: Pandion haliaetus
The undersides of the toes on each foot are covered with short
spines, which help them grasp slippery fish.
The osprey is smaller than the bald eagles that typically share
the same habitats, but its five to six foot wingspan is impressive
nonetheless. Adults are dark brown above with a white underside and
head. Look for the distinctive dark line that extends behind the
eye and the gull-like way the narrow wings are angled downward when
the birds are in flight.
The osprey is found year-round in Florida both as a nesting
species and as a spring and fall migrant passing between more
northern areas and Central and South America. Ospreys in Florida
did not suffer the serious pesticide-related population declines
that occurred in other states in the 1950s and 1960s. Pesticides,
shoreline development and declining water quality continue to
threaten the abundance and availability of food and nest sites for
Ospreys, also known as "fish hawks," are expert anglers that
like to hover above the water, locate their prey and then swoop
down for the capture with talons extended.
In Florida, ospreys commonly capture saltwater catfish, mullet,
spotted trout, shad, crappie and sunfish from coastal habitats and
freshwater lakes and rivers for their diet.
Ospreys build large stick nests located in the tops of large
living or dead trees and on manmade structures such as utility
poles, channel markers and nest platforms. Ospreys have adapted so
well to artificial nest sites that the species now nests in areas
(e.g. inner cities) once considered unsuitable. Nests are commonly
reused for many years. Nesting begins from December (south Florida)
to late February (north Florida). The incubation and nestling
period extends into the summer months.
The osprey is listed as a Species of Special Concern only in
Monroe County. Permits are required throughout the state to remove
a nest for these wonderful raptors, however, and a replacement
structure must be erected to mitigate the removal of the nest.