osprey [key], common name for a fish-eating bird of prey found near water in most parts of the world. The osprey, or fish hawk, Pandion haliaetus, has brown upperparts and a grayish white head and underparts. Its wingspread ranges from 4 to 6 ft (127 to 180 cm), depending on the subspecies. It feeds solely on live fish and is usually seen hovering over the water, into which it plunges feet first to grasp its prey. In the United States the use of DDT led to a significant drop in the osprey population by the 1960s, but after the pesticide was banned (1972) the population recovered. The birds will nest on artificial platforms, first provided in the 1960s to help protect young ospreys from predators. Ospreys are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Aves, order Accipitriformes, family Pandionidae.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2023, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Vertebrate Zoology