Osprey (my photo)

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Osprey have white underparts and their narrow wings have a distictive crook in flight. Their top feathers are dark brown, flecked with white. Their heads are white with a brown streak behind each eye. The adults can weigh between 2 and 4 pounds and their wingspans are generally 4 1/2 to 6 feet.

Osprey populations, as well as the populations of many raptors, were impacted by the common use of the pesticide DDT in the mid 20th century that contaminated the food chain. The chemical caused the egg shells produced by many birds to be weakened to the point that the eggs just broke rather than surviving incubation. DDT was banned in 1972. The ban along with conservation measures have helped osprey populations to recover.

Osprey range along the east coast, the northwestern corner, and the Great Lakes region of the US in summer months. They range across much of southern Canada and Alaska in summer as well. Wintering grounds are on the southwestern coast of California and along the western shores of the Gulf of Mexico in North America. Osprey are year-round residents on the western shores of Mexico and in Florida.

In Connecticut, osprey had been diminished to 9 nesting pairs in 1974, but the population has rebounded. Nesting osprey are now common and many regularly spend the warm season in the state of Connecticut. They are still threatened by pesticide use in some wintering grounds in the West Indies.

A common local threat to osprey is human trash. They can easily become entangled in monofilament fishing line. Waste fishing line should NEVER be tossed overboard or discarded along the shore. It is not just a hazard to osprey, but puts other wildlife such as great blue herons, turtles and shore birds at risk. Most boat launches and many fishing sites have special containers for waste fishing line. If there is no official container, take old fishing line home and dispose of it in sealed trash. Plastic 6-pack rings are another common entanglement hazard.

Osprey live along lakes, rivers, estuaries, coastal marshes and shorelines.

Ospreys eat fish, almost exclusively. They are also known as fishhawks. They catch fish in their talons and the bottoms of their toes have special spicules which give them a good grip on slippery fish. They often splash into the water after a catch. An osprey can carry a fish weighing up to 4 pounds. The fish are turned to a headfirst position for flight to reduce air resistance.

In Connecticut osprey arrive from their southern wintering sites in late March. The same pair may breed together for years, and use the same nesting site. They build platforms of sticks, bones, seaweed and debris for nests and will usually add to their existing nest each year. The nests are in tall dead trees or something similar. Osprey will use chimneys, artificial nesting platforms, utility poles or buildings as well. 1 to 3 eggs are laid in April which are incubated by the female with the male providing meals. After about 2 months the eggs hatch and both parents care for the chicks. Nesting sites are protected, human activity can disturb nesting osprey so it is best to keep a distance. Nests can be observed with binoculars. The baby osprey will stay with the parents for about 2 months. The lifespan of an ospey is about 10 to 25 years in the wild.