Consider ospreys (also called fish hawks) the alligators of the sky: efficient large predators that rule their domain. You’ll often see ospreys, whose wingspan can reach six feet, perched atop light poles or other tall structures, sometimes with a fish in their talons; and their nests adorn channel markers throughout our waterways. These Western ospreys are native to the area, though similar osprey species can be found in Europe (especially Scandinavia), North Africa and Northern Asia. Like everyone else, ospreys here enjoy the Gulf of Mexico’s seafood selection, especially mullet and sunfish.
Ospreys like to nest in very tall trees, up to 200 feet high. A permit is required to cut down a tree containing a nest, and a platform must then be erected (often placed atop light poles) as a replacement site.
This Western species’ range stretches from Northern Canada down to Central South America, but only in Florida (and the Baja peninsula) can you find ospreys year-round.
From a distance, when perched with wings folded, an osprey may be mistaken for a bald eagle; look for the osprey’s white belly to distinguish it from the solid-brown eagle.
The species was endangered in the 1950s, partly because of pesticides, but today ospreys are not a conservation concern, as their population continues to grow.
Ospreys form monogamous breeding pairs. In the springtime you can often spot both the mother and father in the nest, caring for up to three offspring at a time.
Sing It Loud
The osprey’s song is distinctly hawkish. Listen for a high-pitched cry, often sung as a series of ascending notes, ending in a cracked whistle.