The 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 . . .
. . . and after the catch, shifts the fish headfirst.
Now it's time to settle down, subdue that fish, and eat.
Notice the large, sharp talons — two in front and two in back — tailor-made for handling slippery prey.
Here's a look at the nictitating membrane that covers and protects the eye. And finally, look at these extreme head positions that allow for fish ripping.
And good down to the last tail-end.
All photos are © Gregg Thompson and may not be used without permission.
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