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Ospreys (Pandion haliaetus) are meat-eating birds that are often revered for their hunting savvy, particularly where fish are concerned. The sizable raptors eat so much fish that they're commonly referred to as "fish hawks." Luckily for them, they have numerous adaptations that help them immensely in their fish hunting efforts.
Talented Outer Toes
Ospreys' toes are highly effective for hunting purposes, specifically the outer ones. These toes are capable of positioning themselves either at the rear or the front sections of the feet. This positioning results in feet that can seize prey more efficiently and reliably, with a pair of toes in the front and another pair in the back. The positioning can often stop struggling fish from getting away. Ospreys' elongated and twisted claws are a serious bonus for retrieving fish, too.
Spiky Toes, Too
The textures of ospreys' toes are also beneficial for their hunting activities. They have spiky textures that make it much easier to grasp onto fish that are moist and therefore slimy. The miniscule spikes that adorn their toes are referred to as spicules.
Ospreys' feathers assist their hunting in that they don't really get drenched in water too easily. This is because their plumage is notably thick and tightly packed together, with a wet and greasy feel.
Ospreys' wings are substantial in size, with the ability to readily move from their carpal joints. Their wings, apart from being sizable, also can "float" over surfaces of water as ospreys patiently determine when specifically to go in and catch their desired fish. When ospreys submerge themselves in water, their feet go in before the rest of their bodies do.
Water in Their Nostrils
Ospreys' noses have protection against water traveling inside of them. They possess specialized nose valves that work specifically to stop water from making its way into their nostrils while they're looking for dinner. Once ospreys hit the surface of the water, these valves immediately close.
Style of Transporting Fish
An osprey holds a newly caught fish by keeping the soon-to-be-eaten head to the front at all times. By doing this, he minimizes the force of wind -- and simultaneously makes getting to his perch a quicker, more simple task.
Outside of Hunting
Adaptations of ospreys aren't restricted to hunting activities. Osprey youngsters' feathers are covered with lots of tiny spots. This serves as protection while they're in the nests, as it helps them blend in with their surroundings. Some owls and eagles are big predator threats to juvenile ospreys, which is why this defensive adaptation is so imperative.
- University of Michigan Animal Diversity Web: Pandion Haliaetus
- Outdoor Alabama: Osprey
- Sierra Club, Arizona's Grand Canyon Chapter: Osprey
- Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection: Osprey
- Birds of Costa Rica; Carrol L. Henderson
- National Geographic: Osprey
- Indiana Department of Natural Resources: Osprey
- University of Michigan BioKIDS: Osprey
- Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey: Osprey
- Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images