|The osprey ( Pandion haliaetus ) — also called fish eagle , sea hawk , river hawk , and fish hawk is the Dig Imperial Beach “Bird of the Year”! Happy New Year!|
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“Dig IB” Bird of the Week, the “Osprey”
This week’s “Bird of the Week” is the Osprey (Pandion haliaetus), sometimes known as
the fish eagle, sea hawk, river hawk, or fish hawk, is a diurnal, fish eating bird of prey. The name "Osprey" made its first appearance around 1460, via the Medieval Latin phrase for "bird of prey" (avis prede). Some wordsmiths trace the name even further back, to the Latin for "bone-breaker"—ossifragus.
It is a large raptor reaching more than 60 cm (24 in) in length and 180 cm (71 in) across the wings. It is brown on the upperparts and predominantly greyish on the head and underparts. Despite their size, their bodies are slender, with long, narrow wings and long legs. Ospreys fly with a marked kink in their wings, making an M-shape when seen from below.
Unique among North American raptors for its diet of live fish and ability to dive into water to catch them, Ospreys are common sights soaring over shorelines, patrolling waterways, and standing on their huge stick nests, white heads gleaming. These large, rangy hawks do well around humans and have rebounded in numbers following the ban on the pesticide DDT. Hunting Ospreys are a picture of concentration, diving with feet outstretched and yellow eyes sighting straight along their talons.
Ospreys search for fish by flying on steady wingbeats and bowed wings or circling high in the sky over relatively shallow water. They often hover briefly before diving, feet first, to grab a fish. You can often clearly see an Osprey's catch in its talons as the bird carries it back to a nest or perch.
Look for Ospreys around nearly any body of water: saltmarshes, rivers, ponds, reservoirs, estuaries, and even coral reefs. Their conspicuous stick nests are placed in the open on poles, channel markers, and dead trees, often over water.
An Osprey may log more than 160,000 migration miles during its 15-to-20-year
lifetime. Ospreys are unusual among hawks in possessing a reversible outer toe that allows them to grasp with two toes in front and two behind. Barbed pads on the soles of the birds' feet help them grip slippery fish. When flying with prey, an Osprey lines up its catch head first for less wind resistance. Ospreys are excellent anglers. Over several studies, Ospreys caught fish on at least 1 in every 4 dives, with success rates sometimes as high as 70 percent. The average time they spent hunting before making a catch was about 12 minutes—something to think about next time you throw your line in the water.
The Osprey readily builds its nest on manmade structures, such as telephone poles, channel markers, duck blinds, and nest platforms designed especially for it. Such platforms have become an important tool in reestablishing Ospreys in areas where they had disappeared. In some areas nests are placed almost exclusively on artificial structures. Osprey eggs do not hatch all at once. Rather, the first chick emerges up to five days before the last one. The older hatchling dominates its younger siblings, and can monopolize the food brought by the parents. If food is abundant, chicks share meals in relative harmony; in times of scarcity, younger ones may starve to death. The oldest known Osprey was 25 years, 2 months old.
I was lucky enough to capture an Osprey at the Tijuana River mouth this week stalking and catching a large fish for its dinner. Look for this amazing raptor as you walk along our beautiful beaches.