The Flying Coastal Fisherman

A pair of Ospreys perched on their large nest

Two adult Osprey on their nest. Photo by minds-eye


Pandion haliatus

These large birds of prey live near water. This habitat preference is driven by their diet, which is almost entirely made up of fish that they catch live. While fishing they will concentrate on a place that looks promising and begin to circle around in the air. If they locate a fish they often hover and then suddenly make a dramatic dive straight down. They hit the water feet first, reaching for their prey and more times than not come away with a fish.

Once an Osprey has a fish, it generally keeps it. Two of their toes on each talon are reversible and this allows them to keep a good grip on a slippery meal it is trying to bring from the water to a place where it can eat. On the bottom of each toe there are also sharp spicules. These too help to hold on to whatever is being carried during flight.

Ospreys regularly will use the same nest year after year. Reusing the nest leads it to become quite large. The old structure is simply added to, rather than built anew, each year it is used. These birds also like to nest in a perch, high above their surroundings, and hence they can be sometimes be found on the top of telephone poles or similar structures.

An Osprey carrying a fish in its talons

An Osprey after a successful fishing foray. Photo by gnr


An Osprey landing on its nest

A nest that has been built up over many years. Photo by Velo Steve


An Osprey perched with a fish in its talons

Another successful fishing trip. Photo by Terry Foote