Pandion haliaetus

Sea Hawk, Fish Hawk

The osprey is a dramatic looking bird of prey with a proud head. It can live for 15 to 20 years and is able to fly well over 2000 miles in just two weeks. These birds are very good at fishing, and are unusual among hawks in possessing a reversible outer toe that allows them to grasp with two toes in front and two behind. Barbed pads on the soles of the birds' feet help them grip slippery fish. Ospreys dive feet first to capture their prey near the surface. 

They make whistling or chirping calls and can be extremely vociferous, as I learned the day after Irma when the few survivors among those which had nested in the tall palm trees in our garden at Nanny Cay, started screaming at each other, complaining with some reason about their missing nests and most of the palms. A couple of days later they flew away in the hope of finding other tall tree tops in which to live.

Osprey nests are untidily built of sticks and lined with bark, grasses, vines, or flotsam and jetsam. The mating pair divide the work, the male brings the sticks to his mate for her to arrange in the nest.They add each year to the original nest which can eventually reach up to 6 feet in diameter.

One to four eggs are laid, about an inch long, coloured cream to brownish pink and spotted with reddish brown. They hatch at staggered intervals, and the first to emerge, already covered with down and with open eyes, grabs most of the food brought by the parents so that the weaker siblings sometimes starve.

I once met an osprey face to face. It had flown into my neighbor’s house, panicked, and flew on up the stairs into the bathroom. When I looked in, it was calmly perched on the shower rail as if waiting for rescue. Eventually it was caught with a towel thrown over it, and released outside to fly up to the tallest palm, chirping and whistling indignantly as it went. The Cay seems very quiet now and we really miss our noisy ospreys.

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