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28 May Posted by in Blog, north carolina birding | Comments Off on Ospreys

Ospreys, fish eagles, or sea hawks- no matter what you call them, these birds are amazing. They’ve been sighted in classical Greek and Roman literature, as mascots for local university’s sport teams, and, of course, from the deck of the Shamrock in the waters around Wrightsville Beach. We often see their distinctive twiggy nests atop trees or channel markers, and watch adult birds dive and use their powerful talons to catch fish in the tidal creeks of the salt marsh.

These birds are the second most widely-distributed raptor species, behind only the Peregrine falcon, and can be found near both salt and fresh water on every continent except for Antartica. The Latin name for our local species found in North Carolina is Pandion haliaetus carolinensis.  You can identify them by their dark brown back feathers and white belly, the large talons on their feet, their hooked beak, and their intensely yellow eye, used for spotting fish in the water from higher altitudes. Their call is a rapid series of sharp whistles.

As the name suggests, Ospreys like to eat fish, and they’re incredibly good at it. Their outer toe is reversible, which allows them to grasp a slippery fish with two talons on each side for a better grip. They can also spin the fish around in midair and hold it in line with their flight direction for a more aerodynamic flight.

When a pair of Ospreys are hatching eggs, the female never leaves the nest. You might see her head poke out of the top of the nest to keep an eye on her surroundings and to watch for her mate, who does the hunting for both of them and their young.  In order to prevent her muscles from atrophying due to sitting around all day, you might also see her shaking and stretching her wings (Ospreys don’t have treadmills).

For more info on Ospreys, or if you’d like to see one in person, call Capt. Joe at (910) 200-4002 to set up a tour!