The Osprey, a cosmopolitan species subdivided into four sub-species, occurs in the Palearctic, North America, the Caribbean and Australia (see taxonomy). It is a migratory species which can be found on every continent except Antarctica. Nowadays the Palearctic sub-species has an irregular distribution, mainly occurring from Scotland to the west to the Kamchatka Peninsula and Japan to the east. While its European population is fairly large (with an estimate of about 10,000 pairs), this population is quite fragmented and has undergone strong declines and extinctions in the relatively recent past.
In Europe the largest populations occur in Fennoscandia, with increasing numbers in Scotland and in eastern Germany, as well as very locally in France. This distribution map shows all the countries marked with a red “X“) in Central, Southern and Western Europe where the species has become extinct. The green “R” indicates areas where the species has been reintroduced.
Most Palearctic Ospreys winter south of the 20th parallel north in Africa, India, or southeast Asia. A few small non-migratory populations subsist in the Mediterranean Basin, in the Red Sea, and on the Cape Verde and Canary Islands. Genetic studies have shown that all the European Ospreys belong to the same gene pool.