Pandion haliaetus

Image by Peter Massa on Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

Physical: Adult osprey can reach a length of 21-24.5 inches (53-61 cm), with a wingspan of 4.5-6 feet, and weigh up to 4 lbs (1.8kg). The body are blackish above and white underneath unlike most raptors. The head is also mostly white with a wide black patches on their cheeks and wrists. It possesses large sharp talons utilized in catching prey.

Habitat: Occupying rivers, lakes, and coasts, Osprey feed and breed in the Barnegat Bay system. They winter in South America for nonbreeding periods and return to the bay to establish a nest in the early spring. They live predominantly in marshes and wetland areas, where they can perch above water bodies to feed.

Feeding: P. haliaetus feed solely on live fish and is usually seen hovering over the water; plunges feet first to grasp its prey. While capturing their prey, usually medium sized fish, they utilize their irregularly positioned talons to carry their prey aligned with the flight path. This allows for less wind resistance while bringing a catch back to the nest.

Juvenile osprey in nest after banding and ready to fledge. Photo: Ben Wurst
Juvenile osprey in nest after banding and ready to explore Barnegat Bay on their own. Photo: Ben Wurst

Breeding: The male usually arrives at the nesting site first, during early April, and the female follows a few days later, at which time nest building and mating take place. Nests are made in open areas high enough from land predators that may hurt the young. Eggs are laid from mid-April to early May. They are incubated for approximately 37 days. Fledging of the young takes some seven to eight weeks The young return to the same area to breed.

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