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Osprey / Àguila pescadora

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Scientific name:
 Pandion haliaetus

The Osprey in Catalonia:

Regular passage migrant and rare localised wintor visitor. Sporadic summer sightings but last bred in the late 20th century.

Best Sites: wetland sites such as Ebro Delta and Llobregat Delta

Pandion, the king of Athens, whose daughters were turned into birds

Long wings and broad shoulders

 4 sub-species worldwide

Unlike many birds of prey, Ospreys are released from a dependency upon topographical features for updrafts by long wings designed for powered flight rather than gliding or soaring.

Perhaps, however, back in the late summer of 1954, as the first osprey to be born in Scotland since 1916 beat out the first few flaps of its long journey to west Africa, it may have been wishing for broad shoulders too.  For upon them it not only carried the heavy load of a past persecuted by men but also the weight of the hopes of other men, a new generation, who dreamed of a nation once again blessed by the regular sight of ospreys hovering over their lochs.

Fifty years on and who would have guessed that, even despite the threat from organo-chlorines during the 1950's-1970's, year by year more and more of its descendents begin that same arduous journey.  They may not return until their second year (when already pair-bonded for life they may practise nest-building) but return they do and from the time they start breeding, usually in their third year, to perhaps 25 years old, they return to the same location and even to the same nest!

This faithfulness to their natal lands, especially in the males, has been exploited to induce their expansion into England, at Rutland Water, where Scottish nestlings were reared in the hope - realised in 2001 - that they would return to breed.

As up to 70% of juveniles die in the first 6 months, partly at the hands of men who shoot them out of the southern European skies in their thousands every September and October, expansion has been slow, not helped by habitat destruction, environmental pollution and further persecution from egg-collectors.

However, like the generations that followed, the bird that left Scotland in 1954 was strong and supremely adapted.  Anatomical specialisations in fact, such as spiny footpads, reversible outer toes, nasal valves that close out water and a long intestine for digesting bones, that place it in a unique family all on its own.

It is perhaps symbolic then that each male should remain at the nest site until first his mate and then each senior offspring in turn, has departed alone.  It is only then that he follows in the wing beats of his ancestor and heads south.  Ironic too that, granted the freedom that long wings bestow upon them, so many ospreys should choose to return to the same locations year after year.

Confusion species:
Short-toed Eagle
Bonelli's Eagle
Large gulls
52-64 cm
145-170 cm
Females up to 20% larger than males
4700-5250 pairs in europe
Some winter around Mediterranean
Category 3
Populated European Countries:
Top 5:
Sweden, Finland, Norway, Germany, Belarus

Such is the bird's reputation, that south american tribesmen are known to insert osprey bones into their forearms to enhance their hunting skills.

After a head-first plunge from a hovering start, ospreys suddenly throw their feet forward and rip fish from up to 1m below the water's surface.

Often they will shake to jettison access water before carrying off their prey head forwards for aerodynamic efficiency.

This lifestyle means ospreys have to devote a lot of their time to cleaning and preening.

% in Top 10 countries:
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Migrate mid-Feb to mid- April & mid-Aug to end- Oct
Apart from resident population in Mediterranean, european birds winter in the tropics
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