Ospreys are fascinating birds with their eagle-like appearance and unique ability to thrive in urban environments. There has been a recent saying, “If you live in Pinellas County, you live in a watershed” and I have created my own which says, “If you live in Pinellas County, you have seen an Osprey.” Driving along the roadways you may see these large hawk and eagle relatives flying overhead. You may also see large masts of sticks sitting atop of a light pole or power pole, and these are most likely Osprey nests.
These nests are composed of sticks which are then lined with grasses, vines, bark, etc. The male Ospreys do the majority of the fetching for the nesting materials, while the females take the males’ findings and arrange them to form a nest. Osprey pairs will reuse a nest year after year, adding to it every year. A pair’s first nest may start off only 2.5 feet in diameter, but can eventually reach 3-6 feet! The depth of the nest also increases over time, starting at about 3-6 inches deep. Osprey typically start building their nests in December and we are now entering into their incubation and nestling period which lasts through the summer months.
If you’re lucky, you may get to witness this raptor carrying nesting material or even a fish back to its nest. Ospreys are quite incredible fishermen, making a successful catch 25% of the time on a dive into the water and averaging only 12 minutes before making a catch. This might not sound like staggering statistics, but think about how long it takes us to catch a fish 😉 While the Ospreys’ fishing skills are good, their diving skills are limited. Ospreys cannot dive much further than three feet deep so they tend to be found fishing in shallow waters.
It pays to be a good fisherman when the Ospreys’ diet is close to 100% live fish, one of the only raptors on the continent to have this diet. It is no wonder that some people call this bird the “Fishing Hawk”. Because of their fishy diet, they are actually able to get the majority of their water intake directly from their food, but being a specialist like this, has a cause for concern.
Populations of Osprey are threatened by the use of pesticides, shoreline development and declining water quality. To help support this raptor, nest platforms have been constructed and installed all throughout the state. If you have an osprey nest on your property, remember that permits are required in the state of Florida to remove a nest. Permits and further information about the Osprey can be found through the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at: http://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/profiles/birds/raptors-and-vultures/osprey/