Also known as a “fish hawk,” the Osprey is a beautiful and fascinating raptor. The ancient Greeks told a story about a king who transformed himself into this skilled hunter in order to punish his disobedient daughter and a rival monarch. It is easy to see why the Greeks admired this species. Like many fish-hunting birds, the Osprey will hover above the water and then dive steeply when spotting prey with its keen eyes. The Osprey will plunge talons-first into the water to snatch up its food. Once caught, the bird will fly the struggling fish to a seclude spot to feed. Ospreys can be identified by the dark brown plumage on the tops of the wings and along the back, and white plumage on the neck, chest and belly.
In Oregon, they can be found anywhere that fish are plentiful and seem to prefer bays and estuaries. Ospreys are common throughout large swaths of North America, ranging from Alaska and Newfoundland south as far as Arizona, New Mexico and the Gulf Coast. They are almost always found near lakes, rivers and the coast where they can hunt fish.
The rapid (and now well-publicized) decline of Ospreys during the 1950s and 60s was closely tied to the use of toxic pesticides such as DDT. The Osprey’s plight helped raise public awareness about these chemicals and ultimately led to their banning. Today, Osprey’s have made a noteworthy recovery and it is estimated that nearly half a million of them exist worldwide today. Regardless of their comeback, the Osprey is still considered a Threatened Species.