Remarkable fishers

Osprey rings by Wendy Strahm

Osprey carrying fish by Sylvain Larzillière
Osprey carrying a Chub (Squalius cephalus) in its talons.

Ospreys are the only diurnal raptor to feed almost entirely on live fish, and their fishing skills are legion. Flying or hovering high in the sky, they make spectacular dives into the water once a potential prey is spotted. With luck they will then snatch their fish with their enormous talons, firmly gripping it with their reversible toe. They generally take fish that either live in shallow water or at the top 10-20 cm of the water column, for example chub or roach.  Unlike species like cormorants or grebes, Ospreys do not dive and swim underwater.

At times it seems that the fish is too large for the bird to carry, and there are even reports of an Osprey being unable to release a fish that is too heavy, causing the bird to drown. There are no documented cases of this actually happening, but the story is repeated in many places.  We will believe it when we see it!

A fantastic video of an Osprey fishing can be seen here, showing the North American subspecies, which is not the same as the subspecies found in Europe (see taxonomy).