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Pandion haliaetus

Status: Lower risk

Population Trend: Stable.

Other Names: American Osprey (carolinensis), Bahama Osprey (ridgwayi), Eastern Osprey (Pandion cristatus), Fish Hawk.

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Pandion haliaetus
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Distribution: Afrotropical/Australasian/Indomalayan/ Nearctic/Neotropical/Oceanian/ Palearctic. Virtually cosmopolitan, breeding throughout most of northern Palearctic with smaller populations in southwestern Europe and outlying islands, throughout most of the Nearctic from northcentral Alaska to northern coastal MEXICO (Nayarit), CUBA, BAHAMAS, and off BELIZE, throughout the Middle East and coastal areas of northern Africa, and in most coastal areas of the Indomalayan and Australasian regions. Non-breeding individuals occur south to Central and South America, West Indies, throughout sub-Saharan Africa, and various Pacific islands. more....

Subspecies: 4 races. P. h. carolinensis: North America (ALASKA east to Labrador and south through UNITED STATES to Florida and northwestern MEXICO); CUBA, BAHAMAS; winters from MEXICO south to PERU and southern BRAZIL and West Indies; P. h. cristatus: SULAWESI and JAVA east to SOLOMONS and NEW CALEDONIA and south to NEW GUINEA and coastal AUSTRALIA; P. h. haliaetus: SCANDINAVIA and SCOTLAND east through Europe and Asia to Russian Far East, KAMCHATKA, and JAPAN (Hokkaido) south to the Mediterranean, Red Sea, and CAPE VERDE ISLANDS; winters south to SOUTH AFRICA, INDIA, western INDONESIA, and PHILIPPINES; P. h. ridgwayi: Caribbean region, including CUBA (offshore islands, Zapata Swamp), southern BAHAMAS, and keys off BELIZE. more....

Taxonomy: The Osprey has often been placed in its own monotypic family, Pandionidae (American Ornithologists’ Union 1983, del Hoyo et al. 1994, Ferguson-Lees et al. 2001), but other authorities have treated it as a subfamily within the Accipitridae (Stresemann and Amadon 1979, Sibley and Monroe 1990, Dickinson 2003, AOU 2008). The latter treatment was supported by the analysis of Seibold and Helbig (1995), based on molecular sequences of the the mitochondrial cytochrome b gene. In contrast, the cytochrome b DNA studies of Wink and Sauer-Gürth (2000, 2004) indicated that Pandion is sufficiently distinct to be maintained in its own family, and this was also the recommendation of Lerner and Mindell (2005), using both mitochondrial and nuclear DNA sequences. Wink and Sauer-Gürth (op cit.) found "substantial genetic differences" between New World, Eurasian, and Australasian Ospreys, and they suggested that they might be treated as three separate species. This recommendation has been followed so far only by Christidis and Boles (2008), who recognized P. cristatus as a full species to be called the "Eastern Osprey." more....

Movements: Complete migrant (Bildstein 2006). Northern populations are long-distance, trans-equatorial migrants, and the satellite transmitter tracking of the movements of European and North American Ospreys breeding populations has provided a wealth of information about their migratory routes and winter ranges. Juveniles and a few older birds often spend their entire first and second years in tropical portions of Africa, South America, and probably Southeast Asia. The breeding population in Europe winters in sub-Saharan Africa, except for a few that remain in the Mediterranean Basin. Most of the birds breeding in the Mediterranean basin and northern Africa are probably sedentary (Thévonot et al. 2003). Virtually all of the North American east coast breeding population from central FL north, and a portion of the midwestern population, migrate through Cuba and Hispaniola to northern South America (Martell et al., 2001). From there they spread out across much of the continent (Poole and Agler 1987), rarely reaching as far south as Argentina (Saggese et al. in press). Most birds from the western United States winter in Mexico and Central America (Melquist et al. 1978). Ospreys are largely sedentary in Australia, but adults occasionally leave coastal areas to travel along inland waters during autumn (Blakers et al. 1984). more....

Habitat and Habits: Occurs around bodies of still or slow-flowing water, including fresh water and salt water, of any size. Generally, most birds in the northern portion of the Palearctic range are dependent on freshwater feeding, and those at lower latitudes and in warmer waters tend to forage in the sea (Marquiss et al. 2007). In Australia, it occurs in mangroves, coastal islands, reefs, estuaries, and occasionally along larger inland rivers and billabongs (Olsen et al. 1993). Perches in conspicuous locations on trees or power poles. Usually seen singly, or in pairs, and rarely in small parties. Largely diurnal, but also may hunt by moonlight (Olsen et al. op cit.). more....

Food and Feeding Behavior: Almost entirely piscivorous, but occasionally takes other prey, including snakes, birds, frogs, reptiles, marine and terrestrial mammals, crustaceans, and other invertebrates (Wiley and Lohrer 1973, Olsen et al. 1993). Ospreys generally search for fish in soaring or flapping flight, swooping down to take prey, and they rarely search from perches. They often hover with dangling legs at a moderate height before plunging into water to take a fish with their long, curved talons. The final approach is not vertical, but rather at virtually parallel planes to the water surface (Remsen 1990). They may also fly low over calm water surfaces with their legs extended and feet dragging in the water intermittently, a maneuver which apparently causes fish to move or jump (Dunstan 1974). Captured prey is carried to a perch, where it is consumed, or to the nest, which is used as a feeding platform during the non-breeding season (Debus 1998). more....

Breeding: Territorial and nests in dispersed pairs. Builds a large stick nest lined with seawood, bark, leaves, or grass and placed in a deciduous or coniferous tree, or on a power pole, rocky promontory, offshore stacks of rocks, or on the ground. The same nest is re-used each season with both birds adding material, and some structures reach enormous size. Clutch size is 2-4 eggs, which are white with bold reddish-brown and dark brown spots and blotches. They are laid at intervals of one to three days, and incubation is largely by the female. The incubation period in Australia is 35-38 days (Debus 1998, Kennard and Kennard 2006), and the nestling period is 71-76 days (Clancy 2006, Kennard and Kennard op cit.). The female broods the young and feeds them, and the male parent brings fish to the nest when the chicks are small. Juveniles remain dependent on their parents for two or three months after fledging and then disperse widely (Debus op cit.). There is only one brood, but new nesting attempts may be made after early failures. more....

Conservation: The Osprey suffered significant population declines in many parts of its range during the 1950s-1960s as a result of DDE-induced eggshell thinning, but it is now relatively common and still increasing in many areas. However, the wholesale shooting of birds wintering in tropical countries, especially Latin America and the West Indies, remains a serious problem. The Osprey is classified globally as a species of "Least Concern" by BirdLife International. more....

Population Estimates: Poole (1989) estimated the world population at 25,000-30,000 breeding pairs, but the population obviously far exceeds those figures by now. Rich et al. (2004) estimated the Osprey population in the lower 48 states at over 83,000 individuals, based on extrapolations from Breeding Bird Surveys. The European population was estimated at 8,000 to 10,000 breeding pairs by BirdLife International (2000) and later at 7,500 to 11,000 breeding pairs (BirdLife International 2004). Mebs (2002) estimated the European breeding population at ca. 9,000 pairs, of which more than 80% were in Fennoscandia and eastern Europe, especially Sweden, Russian and Finland. more....

Important References: 
Bird, D.M. (ed.). 1983. Biology and management of Bald Eagles and Ospreys:
  Proceedings of the 1st Symposium on Bald Eagles and Ospreys. MacDonald
  Raptor Research Centre, McGill University, Montreal, Canada.
Henny, C.J., R.A. Grove, J.L. Kaiser, and B.L. Johnson. 2010. North
  American Osprey populations and contaminants: historic and contemporary
  perspectives. Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part B
Moll, K.-H. 1962. [The Osprey]. Neue Brehm-Bücherei no. 308. A.J. Ziemsen
  Verlag, Wittenberg, Germany. (In German)
Ogden, J.C. (ed.). 1977. Transactions of the North American Osprey
  Research Conference. U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service,
  Transactions and Proceedings Series no. 2.
Poole, A.F. 1989. Ospreys: a natural and unnatural history. Cambridge
  University Press, Cambridge, UK.
Poole, A., R.O. Bierregaard, and M.S. Martell. 2003. Osprey Pandion
. In A. Poole and F. Gill (eds.), The Birds of North America
  no. 683. The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadfelphia, PA, and American
  Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C.
Wink, M., Sauer-Gürth, H. and Witt, H-H. 2004. Phylogenetic
  differentiation of the Osprey Pandion haliaetus inferred from nucleotide
  sequences of the mitochondrial cytochrome b gene. Pp. 511-516 in R.D.
  Chancellor and B-U. Meyburg (eds.), Raptors worldwide. World Working Group
  on Birds of Prey, Berlin, and MME/BirdLife Hungary, Budapest.

Sites of Interest:
The Osprey Foundation
Devoted to the Osprey in Finland.
The International Osprey Foundation
A non-profit, U.S.A.-based group devoted to education about the Osprey and its conservation; nice photo gallery.
LPO Mission Rapaces, Balbuzard Pecheur
As a team from the League for the Protection of Birds (LPO), this group is dedicated to the maintenance, restoration, and conservation of birds of prey in France.
Rutland Ospreys
A project to reintroduce Ospreys to Central England.
Aves de Rapina do Brasil
Spoecies account, with emphasis on the Osprey in Brazil.
Lake District Osprey Project
Follows the fortunes of the breeding Ospreys at Bassenthwaite Lake.
Osprey photos.
Highland Foundation for Wildlife
Supports a wide variety of conservation projects and research studies on Ospreys.
Osprey migration maps
A fascinating site created by Rob Bierregaard to monitor the migration routes of young Ospreys satellite-tagged at nests in Massachusetts and other Eastern states.
Michigan Osprey webcam
An Osprey nest webcam located at Ferris State University, Big Rapids, Michigan.
Species account, emphasizing European populations.
Loch Garten Ospreys
Details on satellite tracking of Ospreys fledged from the Loch Garten area of Scotland.
Finnish Museum of Natural History
Details of tracking the movements of a Finnish Osprey.

Afan, Donald
Baquero Palma, Fernando Hernandez
Bechard, Marc J.
Bierregaard, Richard O. "Rob"
Dabhi, Pratik
Farmer, Chris
Galushin, Vladimir
Goodrich, Laurie
Gregory, Tim
Henny, Charles ("Chuck")
Kapetanakos, Yula
Koskimies, Pertti
Le Manh, Hung
McIntyre, Carol
Mealey, Brian
Meyburg, Bernd-U.
Mojica, Libby
Moore, Stan
Restani, Marco
Santos, Kassius Klay
Schröpfer, Libor
Sharpe, Peter
Watts, Bryan
Westall, Mark

Last modified: 12/29/2014

Recommended Citation: Global Raptor Information Network. 2022. Species account: Osprey Pandion haliaetus. Downloaded from http://www.globalraptors.org on 23 Jan. 2022

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