BIRD TALK: THE REGAL OSPREY

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By Greg Dunne
                                                
February 14, 2012  (Lake Murray) --  One of the royalty members of the skies in the bird world is the Osprey. The king of raptors may go to the Bald Eagle, but on an equal hierarchy as the Eagle is the magnificence Sea Hawk, Fish Hawk, Sea Eagle--  more commonly known today as the Osprey.
 
I used to think the Osprey was a member of the Hawk family, but it is not. It’s the only member of the Pandionidae family group.  Hawks and Eagles belong to the Accipitridea family group. The Osprey is larger than all of the hawks with just a little shorter wing span than the Bald and Golden Eagle. There isn’t another animal on the planet that can match the Osprey’s fishing skills, even the Bald Eagle who is a skilled fisherman in his own right.

For its size it’s truly an aerial master. The Osprey makes great dives up to 80 mph. These birds are known to soar at altitudes of 50 to 180 feet over their prey, then diving full force feet first, often completely submerging themselves to bring up their catch.  Being aerial fishers, Ospreys have a unique feature – their feet have spurred pads designed for holding onto slippery prey.

 
Ospreys have an opposable outer front toe. While perched, they position 3 toes forward with one to the back. During the hunt Osprey will rotate the outer toe, positioning 2 toes back and 2 forward. Great for holding on to those slippery fish. Only the Owl has this unique opposable toe Aside from the Osprey.
 
We here in the East County are truly fortunate to be able to see this bird of prey up close at any of our lakes. They can be seen almost any time of day at Lake Cuyamaca, Lake Jennings, Lindo Lake, Santee Lakes, Lake Murray, Chollas Lake and at the sea coast in La Jolla.
 
When visiting other Sun Belt states and doing a little sight-seeing, tourists always make a big deal of the possibility of observing an Osprey, and when they see one (usually in the very far distance) it’s the highlight of the tour. If you take a stroll at one of our lakes I believe you’ll have a better than fifty-fifty chance of seeing one and a closer view than most places you would visit outside of our county.
 
I can’t finish without mentioning one of my favorite presidents, Theodore Roosevelt. Having read his autobiography and many other works of his, I’ve been an appreciative student. When Teddy Roosevelt was a young man he wanted to be an Ornithologist (the study of birds).  He kept a bird log of the Adirondacks in Franklin County, New York where he grew up. I have nothing to substantiate this claim, but knowing much about our 26th President I believe the Osprey was his favorite bird! I’m voting for the presidential candidate who enjoys birding - maybe a write-in? 

 


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