Family: (Accipitridae) Hawks and Allies
Preferred Habitat: Close to water.
Seasonal Occurrence: Uncommon fall through spring. Rare in summer. Occasional nester.
Notes: One of the most widely distributed birds, the Osprey occurs on all continents except Antarctica and can be found around nearly any body of water. Overall Ospreys are whiter than most raptors; their crown, forehead, neck, breast and belly are all white while their back and wings are dark brown. Their head has a distinctive broad brown stripe through their yellow eye. Juveniles have white spots on the back and buffy shading on the breast.
The Osprey is one of the only raptors that feed almost entirely on fish and is often called "Fish Hawk". In North America, more than 80 species of live fresh and saltwater fish account for 99 percent of the Osprey’s diet. Ospreys are unusual among hawks in possessing a reversible outer toe that allows them to grasp with two toes in front and two behind. In addition to sharp talons, ospreys have spicules, specialized spines on the pads of their feet that help them grip slippery fish. When flying with prey, an Osprey lines up its catch head first, making it more aerodynamic in flight.
Ospreys may be spotted along Houston's bayous within the city limits. Listen for their whistling or chirping calls overhead and look for this bird's distinctive flight profile; ospreys fly with a marked kink in their wings, making an M-shape when seen from below.