Osprey, Vancouver Island, BC
Osprey, Vancouver Island, BC, Photo By Pauline Greenhalgh

The Osprey arrive in the Pacific Northwest in the first weeks of April, and they have left for their winter grounds by the end of October. They nest near lakes, marshes, and along the ocean shores.

They are related to both hawks, and eagles but are different enough in their body structure to be placed in a separate family. Furthermore, they are the only bird of prey whose outer toe is reversible, allowing it to grasp its prey with two toes in front and two behind. Its toes are of equal length and its talons are rounded. Other hawks have three toes in front and one toe at the back. This toe configuration makes it easier for Osprey to carry fish, and also allows them to carry fish by the head during flight.

The Osprey can reach 60 cm in length. It is found on all continents except Antarctica. The osprey has a diet primarily made up of fish, and they are known as the sea hawk.

Osprey, Vancouver Island, BC
Osprey, Vancouver Island, BC, Photo By Pauline Greenhalgh

Their head is white with a dark mask-like stripe across the eyes that reaches to the sides of the neck. The breast is white, sometimes streaked with brown, and the underparts are pure white. The bill of an osprey is black, and the feet are white with black talons. The eyes are golden brown.

Ospreys reach sexual maturity when they are between 3 and 4 years of age. Ospreys usually mate for life. They will nest in any habitat as long as it is near a fish-bearing body of water. Their nest is a large heap of sticks, driftwood, and seaweed built in forks of trees, rocky outcrops, utility poles, artificial platforms, or offshore islets. They live up to 25 yrs of age.

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