I adventured last week with some fellow nature lovers to Estero Marsh Preserve, a Lee County Conservation 20/20 property in Fort Myers, Florida, where we encountered this beautiful osprey. She was quite vocal and animated about something as we passed by the huge slash pine where she was perched. Here are some FUNky facts I’ve learned about the osprey.
1. The osprey occurs on every continent except Antarctica. It’s the 2nd most widely distributed raptor, right after the peregrine falcon.
2. Ospreys have a reversible toe that helps them to hold onto slippery fish. You can see the toe in this picture, gripping the back end of the branch while the other toes are in the front. However, I have personally witnessed the failure to hold onto a fish. Several years back, I saw an osprey snatch a fish from the pond in my back yard, only to drop it back into the water on the ascent. The bird circled round and round, screaming in frustration, but was not able to find the fish again, and eventually gave up. Lucky fish!
3. The osprey pairs for life, breeding with the same mate year after year. They build a giant nest of twigs and sticks, often atop man-made structures such as channel markers and street light posts. A pair of osprey will cohabitate for about half the year – as long as it takes to mate, lay and incubate eggs, and fledge their young from the nest.
4. 99% of the osprey’s diet is comprised of fish, so they always live near water. They hunt in fresh water as well as brackish and salt water. What comprises the other 1% of the osprey’s diet? They will occasionally catch and eat small animals such as mice, rabbits, frogs, lizards, or other birds.
5. The more dense the local population of ospreys is, the later in life an osprey will breed. This is due to competition for suitable nesting sites – places that will support the massive nests and are high enough off the ground to reduce the risk of predator invasion. Sometimes, environmental or wildlife groups will build platforms to provide more nesting site options.
More photos of local ospreys:
Critter encounters at Bowditch Point (scroll to the bottom on this one)