...continued from the Black-bellied Whistling-Duck post.
If you've been to Quick Point Nature Preserve on Longboat Key, Florida lately, you've probably seen this fellow. He was there every time I visited, usually in this tree or the tree at the far end of the first pond. He was very chatty, and I liked that!
Ospreys always look just a bit surprised to me. It's probably because they lack the heavily pronounced supraorbital ridge above their eyes that hawks and eagles have. The pronounced boney structure tucks the hawks and eagles' eyes into shadow, giving them an intense and fierce look, not the "who me?" look that sometimes pops to mind when I look at an Osprey. (Click here for an older post that explains the supraorbital ridge and how it helps eagles and hawks.)
...and look at those talons! Who needs a supraorbital ridge when you have feet super strong and lethal...and specialized too. All four toes are the same length on an Osprey's foot, and the outer toe is reversible, almost like an opposable thumb, which helps the Osprey grasp fish. In addition, the pads of the Osprey's feet are very scaly and covered in spicules, or spines. These unique adaptations turn the Osprey into a fish hunting machine. Slippery fish rarely wiggle free once an Osprey has latched on, and an Osprey's capture rate of 40 percent (some studies show higher) exceeds the success ratio of other raptors.
"That's what I'm talking about..." says the majestic Osprey. In addition, an Osprey's talons are curved like fish hooks and are rounded, instead of grooved like other raptor's talons. Once more, uniquely adapting them to catching fish for a living.
City Osprey! This Osprey was eating his prey on top of the electric wires lining a fairly busy street that paralleled the ocean. He didn't care about trees and green leaves, he had the gulf sweeping out in front of him, and that's all that mattered...
"Birds of Prey: Majestic Masters of the Skies," by Paul D. Frost
"Birds of Lake, Pond, and Marsh: Water and Wetland Birds of Eastern North America," by John Andrew Eastman
Also...John Briggs (Birding in Maine blog) recently posted a detailed entry on Ospreys. You might want to check it out for more info.
...this is a painting I did in December '09. I'm just including it here for reference because it clearly shows the supraorbital ridge above the American Bald Eagle's eye. The shadow cast by the overhanging boney structure is fun to paint...I love the power in that eye!