Thursday, October 22, 2015

Osprey, North Myrtle Beach, SC

Nature doesn't provide a safety net. If you don't hunt, you don't this case fish. The osprey is a hawk that fishes. That's unique among hawks. Nearly the entire diet of an Osprey consists of fish.

A wave of  Ospreys patrolled the Atlantic shoreline off North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. They could have been just passing through or winter residents. As autumn fades and winter approaches it is hard to tell where they will spend their winter.

However, South America is a good guess. With nearly a six foot wingspan, long distance traveling is not a problem for them.

Any lake, stream, marsh or ocean shoreline would suit an Osprey just fine. Ospreys need open water to fish the year round.

                  A female makes an abrupt stop when she spots a fish, hovers briefly and goes into a dive.

The dive is a high speed maneuver of timing and agility. In the plunge there is little room for error. Any miscalculation results in a missed meal.

In this case the fish saw her coming and jumped out of the way at the last second...too late to change course.

Score one for the fish.  

                                                                  Nothing to do, but try again.

Powerful wingbeats raise her out of the water. That is no easy task for a heavy wet bird. Ducks and geese have webbed feet for a running start over the water to get airborne. The Osprey talons have no such ability. She only has wing power to rise from the water.

With wings drawn close for maximum speed she sights through her talons to hunt again.

Her concentration is intense. At the last second she will fold her wings behind her body to reduce drag when entering the water.

Even fish three feet beneath the surface are reachable this way.

The Osprey's talons have evolved differently from other hawks. An Osprey's outer talon is reversible allowing it to grasp its slippery prey front and back. When flying they rotate the fish's head forward to minimize wind resistance.

Male and females look alike, although the female wears a brown 'necklace' across her breast.


Cornell Lab of Ornithology, All About Birds