Pandion haliaetus

Physical Description

  • Large birds with a wingspan of over five feet
  • Sharp claws and beak for catching prey
  • Distinctive white and black coloration


  • Live all over North America, in a wide variety of temperatures. Spend the summers in Canada, and the winters in the southern United States
  • Live on every continent but Antarctica!


  • Live near any water with lots of fish, including rivers, lakes, and the ocean
  • Can live near salt or freshwater
  • They build nests in high places like trees, cliffs, or manmade platforms. Dive down to fish from their nests


  • Ospreys are carnivores that only eat live fish they have caught
  • Occasionally eat small mammals, birds, and reptiles if fish are rare


  • Osprey chicks and eggs may be stolen out of the nest by raccoons, skunks, fox or snake
  • Adult osprey can be prey to other large birds, such as owls and eagles

Interesting Facts

  • All ospreys, except the Eastern Osprey in Australia, are the same species!
  • Ospreys will strike for a fish at the surface of the water feet-first, grabbing the fish out of the water with their sharp talons
  • Were seriously endangered due to the effects of DDT and other pesticides. Since they were banned in 1972, ospreys have made a healthy comeback

Sources: Audubon Society; AllAboutBirds.org; Chesapeake Bay Program

Photo: Matthew Meier

To hear an Osprey’s calls, click here

See an osprey in person at Living Coast Discovery Center!

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