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Ospreys Over Flagler

Frank Gromling
Frank Gromling

If you spend any time outside in Flagler County, especially at the beach, you will see ospreys in flight. Ospreys are raptors (from the Latin rapere, to seize) and they live on all continents except Antarctica. Because I live and work on the barrier island, and spend a lot of time in, on, or over the ocean, I see ospreys all day long.

Ospreys are the large birds that hover over the surface of lakes and the ocean, and then suddenly dive down to snatch a fish. They shake off the water’s wetness and begin their trip back to the nest where the fish will be consumed or, if eggs were laid in April, shared with 3-4 chicks.

Ospreys’ ability to soar and dive is beautiful to watch. Soaring uses air current updrafts, such as those found along the oceanfront dunes. With only occasional flapping of their wings, ospreys stay aloft effortlessly while riding one air current to another. Sometimes they rise high above a lake or ocean for a better view of what’s below the surface.

With keen eyesight, they spot prey from as high as 200 feet and even see fish several feet below the surface. When a fish is sighted, the osprey rockets down and dives feet-first into the water. The osprey’s two reversible talons on each foot allow them to turn the fish so its head faces forward, thereby providing a more aerodynamic flying posture for the bird.

This is a link to one of the best videos on the Internet showing ospreys feeding. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nA3LtXnNIto

Ospreys feed almost exclusively on live fish weighing about 5-10 ounces and measuring up to 12-14 inches. About three fish a day keeps an adult healthy, while new parents have to catch 6-8 fish a day to feed themselves and their chicks.

While ospreys are not listed as threatened or endangered by the Endangered Species Act, they are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. It is illegal to kill or harm ospreys, or to take their eggs and feathers, or disturb their nests.

When you have the opportunity, take 15 or 20 minutes and watch an osprey. You will be amazed at its beauty, dazzling display of aerial skills, and ability to find food under all conditions.