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Mountain Nature Network has become THE place for learning about the birds of the Canadian Rockies.

Pandion haliaetus

Hawks, Eagles and Falcons
Hawk Family (Accipitridae)

Size: Length: 56-65 cm Wingspan: 135-185 cm

Description: The osprey is a dark hawk with a light underside. The nape, back and wings are brown. The head is white, with a dark beak and a distinctive mask running through the eye towards the dark nape. In flight, the underside is light, with dark banding in the tail and wing feathers. The primaries are dark, and there is a distinctive dark wrist.

Similar Species: The bald eagle is similar, but much larger, and lacks the dark mask and dark wrist patch.

Range: Osprey are common through the Canadian and northern U.S. Rockies. They are uncommon in the southern U.S. Rockies.

Habitat: They are found near water, where they can find plenty of fish. Good habitats include marshes, lakes, ponds and rivers.

Diet: Osprey feed upon fish. They can often be seen hovering briefly over a body of water, before diving talon first into the water, only to emerge with their slippery quarry. Some of the fish can be quite large, up to a kilogram (2.2 lbs) or more. Bald eagles may occasionally try to steal the fish from osprey.

Nesting: The nest of osprey are an untidy mass of large branches, twigs and other materials. They are reused annually, and enlarged each year, meaning they can be immense. They are particularly fond of power poles, and many utilities companies have built platforms to encourage them to nest in a safer locale. The female usually lays 3 eggs that are creamy to yellowish with varying amounts of dark blotching. Egg laying is early in the season, beginning in April in the south, later in the north. Incubation is by both adults and lasts 32-33 days. The hatchlings are altricial and downy, and dependant upon their parents for food. They begin to grow feathers after approximately a month and take their first flight at around 51-59 days. The female will remain with the young at the nest for the first month, with the male bringing her food. Because the nestlings vary in size, the smallest may die if there is not enough food to go around.

Notes: The feet of osprey are well designed for fishing, with feet that have two claws facing forward and two backward, along with heavily scaled feet. These combine to help it hang onto the most slippery of prey.

Related Links:

Hinterland Who's Who - Osprey

Search for recent Osprey sightings

Hire an expert guide to help you locate Osprey

Bird watching in the Canadian Rockies offers endless opportunities for seeing new species. Mountain Nature Network is your source for birding and bird biology.

All Material Ward Cameron 2005



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