Friday, February 25, 2011

Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)

The Osprey is one of the largest birds of prey in North America. It eats almost exclusively fish. It is one of the most widespread birds in the world, found on all continents except Antarctica.

Pandion haliaetus
The scientific name comes from the mythical king of Athens, Pandion, whose daughters were turned into birds, and the Greek words halos, which refers to the sea, and aetos, meaning an eagle. The common name is from the Latin word ossifragus, meaning "a bone breaker."

It is often seen flying over the water, hovering, and then plunging feet first to catch fish in its talons.

Ospreys have an opposable toe that can face forward or backward. While the bird is perched, it usually has three toes in front and one in back. When an Osprey catches a fish, its feet and toes are positioned with two toes on either side of the fish, one foot ahead of the other. The head of the fish faces forward in a streamlined position for transport through the air.

Barbed pads on the soles of its feet help it grip slippery fish.

They were seriously endangered before DDT and related pesticides were banned in 1972. Since then they have made a good comeback in many parts of North America.

Mark took these pictures at Laguna Atascosa.

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