- Size: 21-24” long, with 54-72” wingspan.
- Color: dark brown back and white undersides; white neck and cap on head, with black cheek patch; bright yellow and black eyes.
- Habitat: waterways including salt marshes.
- When and where to observe: spring through early fall near several waterways like Jamaica Bay or Pelham Bay Park.
Human disturbance nearly decimated Osprey populations, but human intervention helped bring the birds back.
This majestic bird, like many other species, suffered from the effects of the pesticide DDT, along with habitat destruction. Today, DDT bans and the help of special nest platforms, Osprey are regularly seen in New York City’s waterways.
With a dark brown back, white underside and a head that sports a white cap and neck along with black cheek patch, and striking yellow and black eyes, Osprey are large raptors measuring 21-24” long with a 54-72” wing span.
They frequently perch on dead branches near water, and hunt for food by hovering over the water and diving feet first into the water. Osprey generally eat herring, bluefish, eel, flounder and menhaden, but can also consume rodents, birds, and crustaceans. Once a fish is caught, the Osprey flies with the fish positioned head-first in its talons.
Males and females mate for life and show strong nesting site fidelity, often returning to the same location each spring. Females lay 2-4 whitish/pinkish/cinnamon colored eggs with brown/olive speckles. Chicks hatch in 32-43 days, and fledge (fly) nearly two months later. Females tend to take care of egg incubation and chick feeding duties, while the male hunts for food. A brood of 3 chicks needs approximately 6 pounds of fish daily!
Osprey leave the area in late summer into fall, returning to wintering grounds as far south as Chile and Argentina. During migration, they can reach flying speeds of 80 miles per hour.
Watch for Osprey – and their large nests made up of sticks – along many New York City waters including Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, the Hunter’s Island section of Pelham Bay Park, Alley Pond Park, Joe Michael’s Mile, and Mount Loretto’s Beach Trail.
- All About Birds: Osprey by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, accessed on 5/14/12 at: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/osprey/id
- The Birder’s Handbook: A Field Guide to the Natural History of North American Birds by Paul R. Ehrlich, David S. Dobkin, and Darryl Wheye, published in 1988 by Simon and Schuster.
- Field Guide to the Natural World of New York City by Leslie Day, published 2007 by Johns Hopkins University Press.
- The Sibley Guide to Birds by David Allen Sibley, published 2000 by Chanticleer Press.
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