The osprey is a superb fisherman

The osprey is one of our largest hawk-type birds, which is sometimes called the Fish Eagle. And you have to admit that, with a six-foot wing span, this is quite a substantial bird.
It lives on fish and it is very well adapted for its role in life. Those huge wings give it great lifting power, and its powerful claws have sharp, horny spines on the bottoms so it can hang onto any slippery fish.
Its method of fishing is different from that of any other bird. It usually flies slowly at about 50 feet or so above the water. When it spots a fish near the surface, the wings fold up, the talons are pushed fully down with claws extended, and it comes down in a powerful dive.
The osprey may go under the water a couple of feet or so but when it comes up, it almost always has that fish. Again, those big wings come in handy to lift bird and fish out of the water.
The osprey is a worldwide resident, breeding in almost all of the temperate areas of the world. In North America, there are about half a dozen “significant” breeding areas. Northern Ontario is one of these, and we have lots of ospreys.
An osprey nest is not a thing of beauty. It is usually at the very top of a dead tree, and is mostly made out of twigs and small branches but has been known to include rope, fishing line, and even rubber boots. The osprey pair will add to it year after year until it weighs hundreds of pounds.
They aren’t too fussy, either. In built-up areas, they will use telephone poles, radio towers, and chimneys.
During the 1960s, a tremendous decline in the osprey population (particularly in the eastern states) alerted scientists to the dangers of the widespread use of pesticides, especially DDT. When DDT finally got into the tissues of the osprey, it affected the ability to reproduce. Hence a crash in the population.
Now that DDT effectively has been banned in North America, the populations of ospreys have increased dramatically.
Well, the osprey is a bird which lives on fish. So is he taking fish which you might want for yourself? Studies have been done on this topic–the result being a clear “no.” Almost all of the osprey’s food consists of coarse, or relatively unimportant fish–sunfish, suckers, perch and the like.
Most of our gamefish species do not spend all that much time near the surface anyway so are not likely to come to the osprey’s attention.
So, in the summer, when you see that great brown and white hawk above you, take note of him. The osprey (Pandion haliaetus) is one of the fascinating sights here on our northern lakes.
The fish he catches are not reducing your chances at all, but I bet his fishing record is a lot better than yours!

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