Pandion Haliaetus – Osprey

Pandion haliaetus - Osprey in the US

The osprey, or more particularly the western osprey, Pandion haliaetus, is a diurnal fish-eating bird of prey with a worldwide range. It’s a big raptor, 60 cm (24 in) long and 180 cm (71 in) wide. It has brown upperparts and gray heads and underparts.

The osprey nests anywhere near a body of water that provides enough food. It is found on all continents except Antarctica, where it is a non-breeding migrant.

Quick Overview: Pandion haliaetus – Osprey
Body size: Around 21-24 in (53-61 cm) and a weight of 1799 g (63.49 oz)
Main colors: White, Brown, Black, Blue-gray
Range: Throughout the United States
Migratory Bird: No
Best time of the year to see in the U.S.: June, July, August, September
Conservation Status: Least Concern

Osprey Description

Ospreys are big raptors (53-61 cm in length) with 137-183 cm wingspan. Their lengthy wings feature a distinctive carpal (wrist) curve. They have a brilliant white underside with dark brown carpal joint patches and a dark brown necklace. A black line through each eye and a dark brown back help identify it. This species’ feet are blue-gray, and its beak is black. Adult ospreys have buff-colored points on their dark brown upper-wing and back coverts and a less pronounced necklace. Adults have a yellow iris, whilst juveniles have an orange-red iris. By 18 months, juvenile plumage is gone.

Pandion haliaetus - Osprey in the US
Pandion haliaetus – Osprey. Photo by: Richard Griffin


These birds have a length of 21-24 in (53-61 cm) and a weight of 1799 g (63.49 oz). Their wings could range from 54- 72 in (137-183 cm).


Piscivores, Ospreys are rare among raptors. Their diet is nearly entirely fish (90% prey). They are opportunistic eaters, eating whatever fish species are available to them — in shallow or deeper seas. Studies in North America have identified over 80 osprey prey species. However, two or three common species may dominate an osprey’s diet.


Ospreys are widely distributed due to their ability to dwell virtually any place with suitable nesting places and shallow water with fish. A salt marsh, mangrove (Rhizophora) swamp, cypress (Taxodium) swamp, lake, bog, reservoir, or river are all within 3 to 5 kilometers of a nest. The utilization of each of these habitat categories varies by area.


Ospreys can migrate or stay put/ non-migratory. The non-migratory populations breed and winter together. Migratory ospreys breed north of non-migratory ospreys and winter south of them, with little overlap. In North America, the line between migratory and non-migratory populations is about 30 degrees N and 38-40 degrees N in Europe.

Pandion haliaetus Scientific Classification

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Subphylum: Chelicerata
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Accipitriformes
  • Family: Pandionidae
  • Genus: Pandion
  • Species: Pandion haliaetus

Other common names

Also known as the western osprey.

Best time of the year to see

The best time to see these birds in the United States is during the summer season (June – September).

Distribution of the Osprey in the USA

Ospreys winter or breed on every continent except Antarctica. Ospreys do not breed in South America or Indo-Malaysia, but winter there. Wintering Ospreys in Egypt and Red Sea Islands Scandinavia and the Chesapeake Bay region of the United States have the most ospreys.

The Osprey can be found in the following states in the United States – Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Pandion Haliaetus – Osprey

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