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Tampa Bay Estuary Program


Featured Creature  »  Featured Creature Archive


Osprey Featured Creature Archive from Tampa Bay Estuary Program

Pandion haliaetus

Commonly seen near water bodies around Tampa Bay, the osprey is one of the largest birds of prey in North America, and is found on all continents except Antarctica. Sometimes mistaken for eagles with large talons and hooked bills, ospreys have a distinctive black stripe through the eye area.

The osprey has a tendency to build its large stick nest in the tops of dead trees or high atop a cell tower, light pole, sign or other tall structure. Sometimes, manmade platforms are installed where nests are considered hazardous. The nests are often refurbished and reused over many years.

Like many raptors, the female is larger than the male. The female's wingspan is almost 5 feet while the male's is about 4 feet. Sometimes called a "fish hawk," their diet consists almost entirely of fish. When hunting, the osprey will hover 50 to 150 feet above the water, spot a fish and dive feet-first into the water, snatching its prey and flying effortlessly away.

Osprey in the Tampa Bay area generally lay their eggs from December to February. For 32 to 35 days or longer, the pair incubates two to four eggs that are yellowish in color and blotched with reddish brown. After the eggs hatch, it takes nine to ten weeks for the young to leave the nest.

Ospreys have made a remarkable comeback in Tampa Bay - and throughout the nation - since the pesticide DDT was banned in 1972. Residues from this widely used pesticide caused ospreys, bald eagles and several other birds to lay thin-shelled eggs that broke during incubation. These magnificent birds of prey are now a common sight along the bay shoreline.

Thanks to Clearwater Audubon, Progress Energy and a number of other sponsors, people around the world can view live ospreys nesting though a special web-cam installed on a platform in Dunedin, FL. Peek inside the nest, see eggs as they are laid, watch the eggs hatch and track the development of young ospreys until they fledge by going to ∞.

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