Pandionidae – Ospreys

Western Osprey Pandion halieatus ©Public Domain

The Pandionidae or Osprey family has recently been revised and the former lone species split into two species which are virtually identical but inhabit different areas of the world. They are also called fish eagles, sea hawks, river hawks, and fish hawks. They are a diurnal, fish-eating bird of prey with a cosmopolitan range. They are large raptors, reaching more than 60cm in length and 180cm in wingspan.They are brown on the upper parts and predominantly greyish on the head and underparts. They tolerate a wide variety of habitats, nesting in any location near a body of water providing an adequate food supply. They are found on all continents except Antarctica, although in South America only as a non-breeding migrant.

As the other common names suggest, the ospreys’ diet consists almost exclusively of fish. They possess specialised physical characteristics and exhibit unique behaviour to assist in hunting and catching prey. As a result of these unique characteristics, they have their own taxonomic genus, Pandion and family, Pandionidae. Four subspecies were usually recognised, but one has recently been given full species status as Eastern Osprey which is found on the rivers and coastlines of Australia. Despite their propensity to nest near water, ospreys are not classed as sea eagles.

The two species:

Western Osprey Pandion haliaetus
Eastern Osprey Pandion cristatus

Species Links
  • Eastern Osprey Pandion cristatus

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Western Osprey Pandion haliaetus

    IUCN Species Status
  • Western Osprey Pandion haliaetus

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Western Osprey Pandion haliaetus

    Species Account
    The osprey (Pandion haliaetus) — also called fish eagle, sea hawk, river hawk, and fish hawk — is a diurnal, fish-eating bird of prey with a cosmopolitan range. It is a large raptor, reaching more than 60 cm (24 in) in length and 180 cm (71 in) across the wings. It is brown on the upperparts and predominantly greyish on the head and underparts.
  • Western Osprey Pandion haliaetus

    Cornell Species Account
    Unique among North American raptors for its diet of live fish and ability to dive into water to catch them, Ospreys are common sights soaring over shorelines, patrolling waterways, and standing on their huge stick nests, white heads gleaming.
  • Western Osprey Pandion haliaetus

    RSPB Species Account
    Seen in flight from below the osprey has white or slightly mottled underparts. The long wings are angled, bending at the 'wrist' which has a black patch contrasting with the white wing linings, and at a distance it could be mistaken for a large gull.
Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 2

Useful Reading
  • DVD British Birds of Prey

    Narrated & Filmed by Paul Doherty 90 minutes 28 species covered £17.95 Bird Images DVD Guides, 28 Carousel Walk, Sherburn in Elmet, N Yorks LS25 6LP, United Kingdom http://www.birdvideodvd.com
    See Fatbirder Review ISBN: Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • Lady of the Loch

    The Incredible Story of Britain's Oldest Osprey by Helen Armitage | 240 pages | Constable Robinson Publishing | Softcover | 2011
    S ee Fatbirder Review ISBN: 9781849017022 Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • RSPB Spotlight: Osprey

    | By Tim Mackrill | Bloomsbury Publishing | 2019 | Paperback | 128 Pages | colour photos| ISBN: 9781472956033 Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • The Rutland Water Ospreys

    | By Tim Mackrill | A & C Black | 2013 | Hardback | 160 pages | 200+ colour photos | 200+ colour & black & white illustrations | ISBN: 9781408174142 Buy this book from NHBS.com
Organisations
  • Dyfi Osprey Project

    Website
    The Dyfi Osprey Project has been running at Cors Dyfi Nature Reserve near Machynlleth since 2009. Find out more about the work and history of the Dyfi Osprey Project here.
  • Glaslyn Ospreys Viewing Site

    Website
    Mrs G was first discovered breeding in the Glaslyn nest in 2004. It is also possible that she was the female osprey that a male was seen displaying to in 2003. It was mid-summer, the time we would expect to see two and three year old ospreys prospecting for partners.
  • International Osprey Foundation

    Website
    The International Osprey Foundation, Inc., a non-profit corporation, is dedicated to the continuing recovery and preservation of the osprey, others in the raptor family, wildlife and the environment as a whole. The Foundation conducts monitoring activities, and accumulates data specific to the breeding activities of the osprey population. The data is made available through the Foundations newsletter publication and can be obtained by interested parties/organizations upon request. The Foundation issues grants for researchers whose studies involve environmental concerns. The Foundation directs and participates in all areas of wildlife and habitat maintenance and restoration.
  • Lake District Osprey Project

    Website
    A pair of ospreys nested on Bassenthwaite last year 2020, and hatched two chicks successfully. The adults and juveniles left the Lake and started their migration to Africa in the autumn. As usual, it was crossed fingers that they made it through all the hazards to arrive safely at their destination.
  • Osprey Project [UK]

    Information
    Welcome to the website of the Anglian Water Osprey Project in partnership with the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust and in Scotland, Roy Dennis MBE. The project is based at Rutland Water Nature Reserve. Ospreys are being re-introduced to England from the growing Scottish population. Satellite tracking is also being used to monitor the migration.
  • Rutland Water Osprey Project

    Information
    Rutland Water is home to the first Ospreys to breed in England for 150 years, after a translocation programme. We observe them from their arrival from Africa in spring, through to their autumn migration. Come and join us at Rutland Water Nature Reserve to learn more about these magnificent birds!
Other Links
  • Osprey - Ultimate Angler

    Video
    Terrific footage of Osprey catching a variety of fish…

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