While the osprey bears a strong resemblance to several kinds of hawks, it is actually classified in its own separate family as a fish hawk.
The osprey is the only North American hawk whose diet is almost exclusively live fish, both freshwater and saltwater. It takes lots of protein (rich in Omega-3 fatty acids) to fuel the exploits of this large raptor, weighing 2 to 4 pounds with a wingspan of 5 to 6 feet!
The osprey is commonly seen circling high over shallow water with its keen eye on supper below.
Just before diving feet-first, the airborne hunter hovers almost motionlessly as the juvenile in this picture demonstrates.
Strong talons secure a fish measuring up to 12 inches while powerful wingbeats raise the submerged bird with its reluctant “passenger” above the water’s surface.
To reduce wind resistance and conserve energy for the flight home, the osprey orients the fish head-first in its talons, riding it like a surfboard over Siesta Key. Cowabunga!
(Jan Baumgartner’s handmade notecards are available at BLVD Beachwear, 5239 Ocean Blvd., and Shelly’s Gift and Christmas Boutique, 4420 S. Tamiami Tr.)