Piscivorous means ‘fish eating’ and Ospreys are almost exclusively fish eating birds.
Since this is the beginning of World Osprey Week, I thought it would be a good idea to celebrate those pecularities to the Osprey that allow it to fish so well. In the image above, the Osprey is using its very developed musculature system to pull the fish out of the water. Look at those wings, uplifted bringing the bird out of the water.
In order to hold on to that fish without it slipping, the Osprey has several advantages that other raptors, such as eagles, lack. The talons of an Osprey are round. Because they are round they can dig deep into the flesh of the fish. The talons of other raptors are concave with a groove on the underside. Look at that rough skin covering the feet. We might want to send them for a pedicure but it is those are sharp little barbs (like needles) called spicules that also help grasp those slippery slimy fish. Ospreys are the only raptor that has a reversible toe. Normally there are three toes in front and the hallux in the back. When fishing, Ospreys can move one of the front toes to the back to help hold on to the fish. This means that they can adjust the toes to catch the prey from the front or the back. Incredible.
Ospreys big yellow eyes can see 19x better than we can as humans. Not only is their eye sight extraordinary, they also have a transparent third eyelid called the transparent nicitating membrane that protects their eyes when they dive. Kind of like a permanent pair of goggles! And to offset the glare, there is the distinctive black strip of plumage that runs from their eye to their neck.
When they hunt, Ospreys fly over a body of water at approximately 18 m or 60 feet in the air. When they spot a fish, they hover, something other raptors cannot do. Then they flap their wings and plunge almost straight into the water feet first. Their nostrils close completely when they dive! They can completely close and lock their talons in 2/100th of a second. I honestly cannot imagine how quick that is. But it does allow for them to be successful when hunting – and their success rate is about 20% or every 1 out of 5 attempts.
This three minute video by the BBC is one of the best at showing how Ospreys fish:
Thanks for joining me today. I hope to see you again soon. Happy World Osprey Week!
The main image is “aguila pescadora 15 – osprey fishing” by ferran pestaña is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.