Bald Eagle Look-a-Like
If Leonardo da Vinci hadn't thought of the helicopter first, then the American osprey surely would have inspired someone else to invent the machine. This distinctive bird with the brown and white head performs a remarkable imitation of a hovering helicopter as it seemingly hangs in the air, its beating wings holding it in one spot. It's almost as if the bird is pausing to plot its speed and trajectory before swooping down on its prey.
Overall, the flight of the osprey is rather relaxed and gliding since it does not have to take other birds in flight or animals on the ground. When it does spot a fish near the surface, the osprey drops vertically, feet-first, to snare the fish in its talons. The feet are adapted well for taking such slippery prey: the osprey's feet have spine-like, sharp projections which make it easier to grip the fish.
Often mistaken for the bald eagle, the American osprey is frequently found in its company since the two fish hawks often share the same territory, yet an osprey is only a small shadow of America 's national symbol.
A more compact bird, the osprey is only 22-25 inches in height compared to the bald eagle's more lofty 35 inches. However, its wings are unusually long for its size, extending between 55 to 73 inches.
What frequently accounts for the confusion between an osprey and a bald eagle is that both birds are brown and white. However, their color patterns are very different and easy to distinguish.
Where both the head and tail feathers of a bald eagle are an unmistakable white, the upper head and tail feathers of the osprey are colored. The osprey has a distinct brown band through its eye and on the side of its face which easily marks it as different from a bald eagle.
Note the facial markings of the bird on Florida Wildlife Viewing's logo in the upper left hand corner of this page. It's an osprey.
In Florida, wherever you find water and fish, you'll usually find ospreys. They prefer to nest in the limbs of dead trees, on top of channel markers, atop telephone or electrical transmission poles. The nests are tall and wide, made of sticks, and reused year after year. Ospreys add to their nests each season, so a long-used nest tends to be huge.
The osprey is one hawk that farmers generally don't mind having on their land, since a nesting pair will usually keep other hawks away. For this reason, some people have erected platforms to encourage the birds to nest in a particular area.
The female lays between two and four eggs colored white with brown splotches. The birds are very protective of their nests and, with loud screams, sometimes even dive-bomb intruders.
Ospreys were among the birds damaged by the indiscriminate use of pesticides. Fortunately, their populations are making a strong comeback.
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