Ospreys: Our Sharp Dressed Visitors

The Original Harbor Hawk swoops in one last time

The ospreys are back!

The return of these great raptors is one of the many tell-tale signs that warmer weather is settling in across the Cape and Islands. We have enjoyed watching the population of these sharply dressed birds grow each year since banning DDT and other pesticides in the early 1970’s.

But how much do you know about our warm-weather visitors?

The first observation many people have is about their size. This is not a small species. An osprey’s wingspan averages four to six feet. For perspective, the average full sized mattress is just over six feet from heat to foot.

They can weigh from two to just over four pounds, or less than a Chihuahua! Females are most often larger than males.

Ospreys are quite the dapper dressers, too! They have dark wings with white legs and a distinctive dark mask across their white face, making them look as if they are ready to step in for Zorro on a moment’s notice.

It is also difficult to ignore how sharp ospreys are – in every way: sharp talons, sharp beaks and sharp sight – all perfect for hunting! Ospreys will dive from as much as 100 feet in the air into water to snatch fresh fish in their curved claws. They are also one of the only hawks that prefer to dine primarily on fish. Occasionally, they will enjoy small prey like squirrels or snakes. 

Anyone who has made the mistake of parking beneath an osprey nest, has a pretty good idea about how much they eat, and what happens once they are done (if you know what I mean)!

Speaking of nests, it’s up to the male osprey to pick the perfect spot for a nest. Ospreys prefer an open space with room to swoop in and out with a great water view. Often, osprey nests can be found atop telephone poles, chimneys and man-made platforms. Ospreys often mate for life and will return year after year to the same nest, which can reach from three to six feet across.

Ospreys will care for between one and four eggs each spring, and hatchlings are able to fly soon after hatching – sometimes in less than a week! 


Further information on ospreys can be found on the US Fish & Wildlife Service and AllAboutBirds.org  

About Cat Wilson

Cat Wilson is "That Girl" on Cape Country 104 – a Cape Cod native and longtime Cape radio personality. She is a passionate supporter of Military and Veteran causes on the Cape and also hosts local music spotlight program, “The Cheap Seats” on Ocean 104.7.

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