Osprey at nest; Courtesy of Glenn and Martha Vargas © California Academy of SciencesOspreys (Accipitridae Family)

Always located near large bodies of fresh or saltwater, Ospreys (Pandion haliaetus) migrate throughout California, as well as the entire continental United States. In the western U.S., they winter mainly along California’s southern coast. However, Ospreys may occupy Quail Ridge year-round, and have been observed in both winter and spring. They nest on the northern tip of Quail Ridge and at other locations around the reservoir.

Osprey numbers declined dramatically in the 1960s due to pesticides, human encroachment on nesting habitats, and shooting. However, the installation of elevated nesting platforms and a ban on the use of DDT have reversed this trend.

Bald Eagle; Photo courtesy of Don Getty © 2001 Don Getty Distinct from other hawks, Ospreys have extremely long wings that resemble a “W” in flight. They forage predominantly on fish by plunging into bodies of water feet first. With long legs and highly specialized feet with pads covered in bumpy projections, or tubercles, and sharply curved, elongate talons, they easily grasp and hold on to prey. Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), which cannot catch fish as far below the water’s surface, often steal fish from Ospreys.

Osprey nest near water singly or in colonies, from April to June, typically in live or dead standing trees. Both males and females participate in nest building, and the pair reuses the same nest each year if it is left undisturbed. A female will lay two to four eggs (usually three) yearly. After fledging, the young may wander locally before returning to their natal area at about two or three years of age; they reach maturity at three.

Species and Guild Accounts

Birds Page

Listen and identify birds at: http://identify.whatbird.com/mwg/_/0/attrs.aspx

Photo Credits: Title, California Quail (Joyce Gross), Osprey (Glenn and Martha Vargas), Bald Eagle (Don Getty; http://www.dongettyphoto.com/). For more pictures see: http://elib.cs.berkeley.edu/photos/fauna/

This page last updated: April 5, 2007  

Contact: Dr. Virginia Boucher
John Muir Institute of the Environment
109 The Barn, University of California, Davis, CA 95616
Phone: 530-752-6949; email: vlboucher@ucdavis.edu

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