Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) is a medium large raptor which is a specialist fish-eater with a worldwide distribution. It is sometimes known by the misnomers Fish Hawk, Sea Hawk or Fish Eagle. It is the only member of the genus Pandion (Savigny, 1809).
The Osprey is is 52-60cm long with a 152-167cm wingspan. It has white underparts and long, narrow wings with four "fingers", which give it a very distinctive appearance.
The Osprey is particularly well adapted to its diet, with reversible outer toes, closable nostrils to keep out water during dives, and backwards facing scales on the talons which act as barbs to help catch fish.
It locates its prey from the air, often hovering prior to plunging feet-first into the water to seize a fish. As it rises back into flight the fish is turned head forward to reduce drag. The feet are such effective tools for grasping fish that, on occasion, Ospreys have drowned because they were unable to release their grip on a fish that was heavier than expected.
It breeds by freshwater lakes, and sometimes on coastal brackish waters. The nest is a large heap of sticks built in trees, rocky outcrops, telephone poles or artificial platforms. In some regions with high Osprey densities, such as Chesapeake Bay, USA, most Ospreys do not start breeding until they are five to seven years old. Many of the structures they need to build nests on are already taken. If there are no nesting sites available, young Ospreys may be forced to delay breeding.
Ospreys usually mate for life. In March or earlier depending on region, they begin a five-month period of partnership to raise their young. Females lay 3–4 four eggs by late April, and rely on the size of their nest to help conserve heat. The eggs are approximately the size of chicken eggs, and cinnamon colored. The eggs generally incubate for 5 weeks. After hatching, 2-ounce chicks become fliers within eight weeks. When food is scarce, the first chicks to hatch are most likely to survive.
European breeders winter in Africa. American and Canadian breeders winter in South America, although some stay in the southernmost USA states such as Florida and California. Australasian Ospreys tend not to migrate.
The Osprey differs in several respects from the other diurnal birds of prey, and has always presented something of a riddle to the taxonomist. 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. Other schemes place it alongside the hawks and eagles in the family Accipitridae—which itself can be regarded as making up the bulk of the order Accipitriformes or else be lumped with the Falconidae into Falconiformes— and others again group it alongside the other raptors in a greatly enlarged Ciconiiformes.
Twenty to thirty years ago, Ospreys in some regions faced possible extinction, because the species could not produce enough young to maintain the population. Since the ban of DDT in many countries in the early 1970s, together with reduced persecution, the Ospreys, as well as other affected bird of prey species are making significant recoveries.
The contents of this article is licensed from www.wikipedia.org under the GNU Free Documentation License. Click here to see the transparent copy and copyright details