Species Spotlight: Osprey

Species Spotlight: Osprey

Now is the perfect time to start visiting the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, as many migratory birds will be making their annual return.

One of those migratory birds is the Osprey (Pandion Haliaetus), or fish hawk. This raptor can be found on every continent except Antarctica and is commonly seen flying along coastlines, over rivers, and across lakes. Ospreys primarily feed on fish, and when they dive, they do so feet first and can fully submerge themselves underwater when necessary. They have adapted the ability to close their nares, or nostrils when they dive. If you have ever experienced water going up your nose, then you know it is an unpleasant feeling. Fish tend to be very slippery, but the Osprey displays a neat biological feature to help with this. Their feet are zygodactyl, meaning that two of their four toes face forward while the other two faces backward. Ospreys can firmly grip a fish, and they reposition their catch so that the head of the fish faces forward while being carried. You may need binoculars to identify this bird, but they frequent Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens and the treetops surrounding it.

An osprey near the Gardens. The stadium lights outside the grounds have had nests of osprey in previous years! Photo credit to Tim Ervin

In celebration of Women’s History Month, we’re highlighting two legendary female birds.

First up, we have a European Osprey named Lady. The average female Osprey lives to be 8 or 9 years of age, but Lady was around 28 years old when she passed away. For 24 consecutive years, many would wait in anticipation for Lady’s return to the Loch of the Lowes Wildlife Reserve in Scotland. Ospreys lay 3 to 4 eggs each year. Lady laid around 71 eggs in her lifetime and successfully fledged at least 50 chicks (capable of flying). The second bird we want to highlight is an Albatross named Wisdom. She is the oldest known wild bird in history at over 70 years of age! Wisdom has astounded everyone by living well past her species’ life expectancy, which was once thought to be 40 years. She is still laying eggs, and her most recent chick hatched on February 1st at the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge. A female Albatross will lay only one egg a year, making each chick a significant contribution to the growing population. Lady and Wisdom are proof that women are capable of the impossible. Let us continue to celebrate women who shatter records in nature and science, humans and birds alike.


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