Ospreys are the third largest native bird of prey to roam across the UK, only smaller than the White Tailed Eagle and Golden Eagle. You can tell they are an Osprey by their white breast and have brown feathers on their backs and they have an obvious brown stripe across their eyes, a bit like a highwayman’s mask! On the underside of their wings, you will see that they have several brown spots and the pattern of these will be different for each Osprey, and is one of the ways experts are able to tell the difference between two different birds.
Ospreys are really big birds with a wingspan of up to 1.8m – ask an adult to help you measure your ‘wingspan’ by stretching your arms out either side of you! What is more amazing is that unlike other birds, like Pheasants where the male is bigger than the female, female Ospreys can be up to 20% larger than the males, and this is true of most birds of prey. Ospreys can weigh up to 1.8kg, which is almost the same as two bags of sugar!
Rutland Water Nature Reserve is a perfect habitat, or place, for Ospreys because the reservoir is home to plenty of fish, such as Trout, Roach and Pike! The Osprey is an excellent hunter, at the top of its food chain in the UK, and is perfectly adapted to catch such slippery prey. One of my personal favourites is to do with their talons, which are curved and extremely sharp. Like with most other birds, Ospreys’ talons are positioned with three talons facing forward and one facing backwards, but Ospreys have the clever ability to move one of its outer three talons round, so it has two talons facing forward and two facing backwards – amazing! This incredible ability is known as zygodactylism, and helps the Osprey keep hold of the fish. Ospreys also have really strong, powerful wings, which allows them to lift up out of the water with a fish that could weigh up to half the Osprey’s bodyweight! There are plenty of other adaptations that Ospreys have, which helps them catch fish – why not have a look and see if you can make a list of other things that makes Ospreys excellent fishermen?!
Ospreys are fascinating birds of prey and it is so special to have them here in Rutland. Now you know a little bit about the Osprey, tomorrow will delve into the history of Ospreys in the UK.