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An Osprey Goes Fishing

osprey eating fish 0The Osprey is the only North American raptor to eat fish almost exclusively, and it's well adapted to do so. To help grip its slippery prey, the talons of the Osprey have barbed pads and a reversible outer toe with two (extremely sharp) talons in front and two in back — unusual among birds of prey. Ospreys carry fish headfirst to minimize wind resistance.

Summer visitors in much of their North American range, Ospreys winter in coastal California, Texas, and Florida and as far south as Argentina.

Gregg Thompson photographed this Osprey catching and eating a large fish. Check out these images carefully to see the bird's special adaptations: sharp and well-oriented talons, a nictitating membrane that protects the eyes, and a flexible neck that allows exteme head positions — all great for tearing up fish.

  This Osprey is focused on the hunt . . .  

  osprey eating fish 1

  . . . and after the catch, shifts the fish headfirst.

  osprey eating fish 2

  Now it's time to settle down, subdue that fish, and eat.

  osprey eating fish 3

  osprey eating fish 4

  Notice the large, sharp talons — two in front and two in back — tailor-made for handling slippery prey.

  osprey eating fish 5

  Here's a look at the nictitating membrane that covers and protects the eye.

  osprey eating fish 7

  And finally, look at these extreme head positions that allow for great fish ripping.

  osprey eating fish 8

  osprey eating fish 9

  osprey eating fish 10


  osprey eating fish 11

  And good down to the last tail-end.

  osprey eating fish 12


Listen to BirdNote shows about Ospreys:
The Superbly Adapted Osprey
Nests with Flair
Ospreys Weather the Storm
Three Worldwide Raptors
Ospreys Head South
Osprey Return to Pennsylvania - Interview with Larry Rymon

All photos © Gregg Thompson


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