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Date: 08 Nov 2010 14:48:00
Title: Osprey

                                                                                                          The Osprey

 

 

Stopping for a few minutes at the plantation to show the Moths (Mistress and Master of the House a.k.a the Walkers) what an Anhinga looked like, our assistants spotted this chap flying toward us. We were impressed as during the week their spotting skills have improved from seeing a tree to seeing a bird in a tree. This chap was indeed correctly identified as an Osprey.

 

The Osprey (Pandion haliaetus), sometimes known as the sea hawk or fish eagle, is a diurnal, fish-eating bird of prey. It is a large raptor, reaching twenty four inches in length with a six foot wingspan. It is brown on the upperparts and predominantly greyish on the head and underparts, with a black eye patch and wings. The Osprey tolerates a wide variety of habitats, nesting in any location near a body of water providing an adequate food supply. It is found on all continents except Antarctica although in South America it occurs only as a non-breeding migrant. As its other common name suggests, the Osprey's diet consists almost exclusively of fish. It has evolved specialised physical characteristics and exhibits unique behaviour to assist in hunting and catching prey. As a result of these unique characteristics, it has been given its own taxonomic genus, Pandion and family, Pandionidae. Four subspecies are usually recognised. Despite its propensity to nest near water, the Osprey is not a sea-eagle.

 

Taxonomy: The Osprey was one of the many species described by Carolus Linnaeus in his 18th century work, Systema Naturae, and named as Falco haliaeetus. The genus Pandion was described by the French zoologist Marie Jules César Savigny in 1809. The Osprey differs in several respects from other diurnal birds of prey. Its toes are of equal length, its tarsi are reticulate, and its talons are rounded, rather than grooved. The Osprey and Owls are the only raptors whose outer toe is reversible, allowing them to grasp their prey with two toes in front and two behind. This is particularly helpful when they grab slippery fish. It has always presented something of a riddle to taxonomists, but here it is treated as the sole member of the family Pandionidae, and the family listed in its traditional place as part of the order Falconiformes.

 

 
A good left footed strike
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Then speed made him crash and burn, but well recovered - proving him to be a youngster.

 

Etymology: The genus name Pandion is after the mythical Greek king Pandion of Athens and grandfather of Theseus, who was transformed into an eagle. The specific epithet haliaetus is derived from the Greek ἁλιάετος "sea eagle/Osprey". The origins of Osprey are obscure; the word itself was first recorded around 1460, derived via the Anglo-French ospriet and the Medieval Latin avis prede "bird of prey," from the Latin avis praedæ though the Oxford English Dictionary notes a connection with the Latin ossifraga or "bone breaker" of Pliny the Elder. However, this term referred to the Lammergeier.

 

Description: The upperparts are a deep, glossy brown, while the breast is white and sometimes streaked with brown, and the underparts are pure white. The head is white with a dark mask across the eyes, reaching to the sides of the neck. The irises of the eyes are golden to brown, and the transparent nictitating membrane is pale blue. The bill is black, with a blue cere, and the feet are white with black talons. A short tail and long, narrow wings with four long, finger-like feathers, and a shorter fifth, give it a very distinctive appearance. The sexes appear fairly similar, but the adult male can be distinguished from the female by its slimmer body and narrower wings. The breast band of the male is also weaker than that of the female, or is non-existent, and the underwing coverts of the male are more uniformly pale. It is straightforward to determine the sex in a breeding pair, but harder with individual birds. The juvenile Osprey may be identified by buff fringes to the plumage of the upperparts, a buff tone to the underparts, and streaked feathers on the head. During spring, barring on the underwings and flight feathers is a better indicator of a young bird, due to wear on the upperparts. In flight, the Osprey has arched wings and drooping "hands", giving it a gull-like appearance. The call is a series of sharp whistles, described as cheep, cheep or yewk, yewk. If disturbed by activity near the nest, the call is a frenzied cheereek!

 

Diet: Fish make up 99% of the Osprey's diet. It typically takes fish weighing between five and ten ounces and about ten to fourteen inches in length, but the weight can range from two to sixty eight ounces. Ospreys have vision that is well adapted to detecting underwater objects from the air. Prey is first sighted when the Osprey is thirty to a hundred and thirty feet above the water, after which the bird hovers momentarily then plunges feet first into the water. The Osprey is particularly well adapted to this diet, with reversible outer toes, sharp spicules on the underside of the toes, closable nostrils to keep out water during dives, and backwards-facing scales on the talons which act as barbs to help hold its catch. Occasionally, the Osprey may prey on rodents, rabbits, hares, amphibians, other birds, and small reptiles.

 

 

 

Reproduction: The Osprey breeds by freshwater lakes, and sometimes on coastal brackish waters. The nest is a large heap of sticks, driftwood and seaweed built in forks of trees, rocky outcrops, utility poles, artificial platforms or offshore islets. Generally, Ospreys reach sexual maturity and begin breeding around the age of three to four years, though in some regions with high Osprey densities, such as Chesapeake Bay in the U.S., they may not start breeding until five to seven years old, and there may be a shortage of suitable tall structures. If there are no nesting sites available, young Ospreys may be forced to delay breeding. To ease this problem, posts are sometimes erected to provide more sites suitable for nest building. The platform design developed by one organization, Citizens United to Protect the Maurice River and Its Tributaries, Inc. has become the official design of the State of New Jersey, U.S.A. The platform plans and materials list, available online, have been utilized by people from a number of different geographical regions. Ospreys usually mate for life. Rarely, polyandry has been recorded. The breeding season varies according to latitude; spring (September-October) in southern Australia, April to July in northern Australia and winter (June-August) in southern Queensland. In spring the pair begins a five-month period of partnership to raise their young. The female lays two to four eggs within a month, and relies on the size of the nest to conserve heat. The eggs are whitish with bold splotches of reddish-brown and are about 2.4 x 1.8 inches and weigh about 2.4 ounces. The eggs are incubated for about 5 weeks to hatching. The newly hatched chicks weigh only two ounces and fledge in eight to ten weeks. When food is scarce, the first chicks to hatch are most likely to survive. The typical lifespan is seven to ten years, though rarely individuals can grow to as old as twenty five years. The oldest European wild osprey on record lived to be over thirty years of age.

 

 

The vessel - Osprey

 

Legends and Odds: Nisos, a king of Megara in Greek mythology, became a sea eagle or Osprey, to attack his daughter after she fell in love with Minos, king of Crete. The Roman writer Pliny the Elder reported that parent Ospreys made their young fly up to the sun as a test, and dispatch any that failed.

Another odd legend regarding this fish-eating bird of prey, derived from the writings of Albertus Magnus and recorded in Holinshed's Chronicles, was that it had one webbed foot and one taloned foot.

There was a medieval belief that fish were so mesmerised by the Osprey that they turned belly-up in surrender, and this is referenced by Shakespeare in Act 4 Scene 5 of Coriolanus: I think he'll be to Rome, As is the osprey to the fish, who takes it, By sovereignty of nature.

The Irish poet William Butler Yeats used a grey wandering Osprey as a representation of sorrow in The Wanderings of Oisin and Other Poems (1889).

 

 

     

   

 

The Osprey is depicted as a white eagle in heraldry, and more recently has become a symbol of positive responses to nature, and has been featured on more than fifty postage stamps used as a brand name for various product, sports teams (examples include the Ospreys, a Rugby Union team; the Seattle Seahawks, an American football team and the North Florida Ospreys) or as a mascot (examples include the Geraldton skiing team in Australia; the University of North Florida; Salve Regina University; Wagner College; the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and the Richard Stockton College).

 

 

 

ALL IN ALL A GOOD LOOKING LAD


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