The Osprey – Unique Among North American Raptors


While rafting down the Klamath or the Upper Sacramento rivers in Northern California, you might be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of this wonderful bird of prey. Ospreys (Pandion haliaetus) love the riches that fresh water rivers give them. As notorious fish hunters, Ospreys can often be seen overhead flying above the path of the river scanning for their next meal.

  • Osprey Perched
  • Osprey in Flight

Although smaller than Bald Eagles, Ospreys are still fierce raptors with razor sharp talons and beaks made for ripping flesh. Their white chest can be very visible among the trees as you pass down the rapids.

They typically nest along the river on top of a dead tree and make a platform type nest. Their nests are very distinct and often sighted when traveling down the river. Although smaller than a Bald Eagle’s nest, these nests contain large branches and sticks and sit almost in a rectangular fashion atop snags.

  • osprey-in-next
  • osprey-and-baby-in-nest

Ospreys are part of the hawk family and they happen to be the only one in the family to live exclusively on fish. They prefer shallow water where they are more apt to catch fish who swim close to the surface. With their keen eyesight, Ospreys are able to spot their target and swoop down to make a catch with their long talons. They will typically carry the fish back to the nest and indulge.

osprey-with-fish

Ospreys, like eagles, remain solitary most of their lives until they find a mate. They are very territorial and while rafting down the river you may hear their fighting calls. These majestic birds are a treat to see on the river and we hope you get that chance on your River Dancers trip!

To learn more about Ospreys visit Cornell Lab of Orithology and check out their live bird cam of the nesting Ospreys in Savannah, Georgia.

All pictures from this post are from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

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Kyle Scully

Kyle likes chocolate and peanut butter on her pancakes. Need to know more? She wears tutus, knows a lot about birds, and can knit better than your grandmother. Make sure you ask her to sing you a tune on the ukulele or guitar. Kyle has led wilderness trips in New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Alaska, and California. She graduated from DePauw University with a bachelors in english literature and has her masters in secondary education from Xavier University. In the off season she works as a middle school teacher and tennis and lacrosse coach. She writes poetry and her favorite book is The Little Prince. And, yeah -- she's from Cincinnati.

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