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Osprey - Pandion haliaetus

Kingdom: Animalia    Phylum: Chordata    Class: Aves (Birds)    Order: Falconiformes    Family: Pandionidae


Pandion haliaetus
Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) - image © Rajiv Lather


Osprey
(Pandion haliaetus) is a widespread winter visitor and local resident in India.     Size: 53-60 cm

Identification: Length: 53-61 cm. Adults: Upperparts dark brown; head and neck white, with a wide black stripe running from the eye down the side of the neck; crown slightly streaked with black. Underparts white except breast, which bears faint streaks of dark brown, especially in female. Cere, legs and feet bluish gray.

Breeding: Nests are made of coarse sticks; usually in trees from 6-20 m up, occasionally on rocky cliffs, and very rarely on the ground. Nests are usually placed in dead trees, frequently in burned-over areas where they may be seen from a considerable distance. Nests generally are used from year to year until blown down or until the birds are driven elsewhere by human interference. Eggs: 2-4, usually 3; dull white, heavily blotched with various shades and densities of rich brown, chiefly around the larger end. Sometimes they are so heavily pigmented that little of the white ground colour can be seen. Repair of old nests begins soon after arrival and egg laying starts two weeks later and continues over several weeks. Hatching commences in June, fledging as early as late July. Unlike most other members of the hawk family, Ospreys are not bold in defence of their nests when they contain eggs, but they do become more belligerent as their offspring develop.

Food: It is probable that the Osprey lives entirely on live fish, which it catches by spectacular diving. Watchfully winging its way 30 or more metres above the water, it pauses to hover when a fish is sighted near the surface. Having marked its prospective victim, it drops like a bolt out of the blue with wings half-folded, striking the water with its breast (rather than head first), sending the spray in all directions. Sometimes it disappears momentarily below the surface. Taking off once again, it soon pauses in flight to shake the water from its plumage. A small fish is held by one talon, a larger fish by both. All are carried off in streamlined position, head first. Usually the bird is rewarded the first time for its diving effort, but not infrequently it misses the target and the fish escapes.



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