Back to Basics

femalei-osprey

The Doctor has fielded a few questions, of which I thought you knew the answers. I will not disclose who asked these questions, nor am I judgmental. My sole desire is to maintain contact with the human species, to promote increased awareness and understanding of life on planet earth and to preserve life as we know it today.

As always ………………………………………………………You know what you can do.

Love and kisses,

Harriett

“Please listen and pay attention.

The osprey, sometimes known as the sea hawk, is a diurnal, fish-eating bird of prey. It is a large raptor, reaching more than 24 inches in length and 71 inches across the wings.

Diurnality is animal behavior characterized by activity during the day and sleeping at night. The common adjective is “diurnal”. Birds of prey, also known as raptors, are birds that hunt or feed on other animals.

Hawks, eagles, ospreys, falcons, and owls are all considered raptors.

What makes a Raptor?
All raptors have a hooked beak, strong feet with sharp talons, keen eyesight, and a carnivorous diet.

• Hooked beak — the raptor’s beak sets it apart from other birds. All raptors have the same beak design, curved at the tip with sharp cutting edges to rip and tear apart their prey.
• Sharp talons — Birds of prey have powerful leg and toe muscles that end with sharp talons. This makes their feet lethal weapons. Their feet are perfectly designed to catch, hold, and carry prey. The length and size of raptors toes, and the curvature and thickness of its talons are related to the type of prey it pursues. Most birds of prey have three toes pointing forward and one pointing backward. These toes can apply an extremely powerful grip on their prey, literally crushing it to death. The talons may also kill the prey by piercing the soft tissue and vital organs. Ospreys, like owls, have one hinged toe that can be held in a forward or back position. This allows them to hold fish with two talons on each side for a secure grip. Ospreys also have spiny scales on their feet that help them hold slippery fish more securely.
• Keen eyesight — Raptors have very keen eyesight due to the relative size of the eyeball in proportion to their head, eye muscles designed for rapid focus, and the high resolution of the retina.
• Carnivorous diet — although the diet varies from species to species, all raptors are meat eaters.

Appearance:

Ospreys are large birds of prey. Their long wings have a characteristic bend at the carpal (“wrist”) joints. They are bright white underneath, with a mottled dark brown necklace. Other identifying markings include a dark stripe through each eye, and a dark brown back. The feet of this species are pale blue-gray, and the beak is black.
On average, female ospreys are 20% heavier than males and have a wingspan that is 5 to 10% greater. Female ospreys also have a more defined necklace than their male counterparts.

Diet:

Fish make up 99% of the Osprey’s diet. Captured fish usually measure about 6–13 inches in length and weigh one-third to two-thirds of a pound. Virtually any type of fish in that size range is taken. The largest catch on record weighed about 2.5 pounds and that was by Ozzie’s cousin Larry.

Fishing:

There is no greater fisherman that the osprey. Ospreys catch fish on at least 1 in every 4 dives. The average time they spent hunting before making a catch was about 12 minutes. When it catches a fish, an osprey will rearrange it in its talons so the fish is facing forward. This reduces drag, making it easier for the osprey to fly.

Geographic Range:

Ospreys have a worldwide distribution, wintering or breeding on every continent except Antarctica. Ospreys are not known to breed in South America, but are found there in the winter. Regions where ospreys are particularly abundant include Scandinavia and the Chesapeake Bay region of the United States.

Habitat

Ospreys have a wide distribution because they are able to live almost anywhere where there are safe nest sites and shallow water with abundant fish. Nests are generally found within 3 to 5 km of a water body such as a salt marsh, lake, reservoir or river.
Ospreys choose structures that can support a bulky nest, and that are safe from ground-based predators. Nest sites can be safe from predators either by being difficult for a predator to climb (e.g. on a cliff) or by being over water or on a small island. Over-water nest sites that are often used by ospreys include buoys and channel markers, dead trees and artificial nest platforms. Ospreys have also been known to nest on various man-made structures, such as power poles, duck blinds, communication towers, buildings and even billboards.
European breeders winter in Africa. American and Canadian breeders winter in South America.

Predators:

Adults are vulnerable to avian predators like eagles and large owls.
Eggs and nestlings are vulnerable to raccoons, snakes and other climbing animals.

Reproduction

Courtship in ospreys centers on food and nest sites. In migratory osprey populations, males and females arrive at the nest site separately, the male often arriving several days earlier than the female. Male ospreys sometimes perform a conspicuous aerial display near the nest site. This display usually occurs during early courtship, and may serve to attract potential mates or to threaten an intruder. Both sexes collect materials for the nest, but the female does most of the arranging of materials at the nest. Osprey nests are typically constructed of sticks, and lined with softer materials such as seaweed, kelp, grasses or cardboard. A wide variety of flotsam and jetsam may also be incorporated into osprey nests, including fishing line, plastic bags and nearly anything else that an osprey might find and can lift. Osprey pairs use the same nest year after year, but must spend some time each year repairing it and adding materials before eggs can be laid.

Mating System

Two to four eggs are laid over a period of several days, each 1 to 2 days apart. Both the male and female incubate the eggs, which hatch after approximately 40 days. Because incubation starts when the first egg is laid, the eggs hatch asynchronously in the order in which they were laid. Chicks that hatch first are larger and have a competitive advantage over those that are hatch later. If food becomes scarce, the smaller chicks are less successful in competing for food, and often die. This decrease in the number of chicks in the nest makes food more available to the surviving chicks, and increases their likelihood of survival. This process, common in raptors, is called brood reduction.

Lifespan/Longevity

Ospreys are a relatively long-lived bird species. The oldest known osprey in North America was a 25-year old male. However, very few individuals live to this age. Chance of survival from one year to the next varies between populations, but is estimated to be approximately 60% for young ospreys (less than 2 years old) and 80 to 90% for adult ospreys.

“Just read it and remember it”, continued Harriett.
“It’s not at all difficult. We need you to be informed before The Show starts”.

Love You,
Harriett

About Harriett Raptor

Harriett O. Raptor 8-year-old mother of five, lifelong mate of Ozzie Raptor until he perished last year, fluent in telepathy with The Doctor and possessor of genetic memory. She is an intellectual, a scholar, philosopher and thinker; a wise, learned osprey especially distinguished for her expertise on the H. sapiens problem.
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