One of the most interesting raptors is the Osprey. They are often called the fishing hawk but in reality they are not really a hawk at all. The osprey has its own genus (Pandion) and own family (Paninidae) of which it is the only member. So what makes the osprey so unique? The main difference is the osprey's feet. Most diurnal raptors, those that are active in the daytime, have one toe that is longer then the other three. This toe is called the hallux. It usually is the backward facing toe and one one that many raptors use to kill their prey. If you look at the young osprey being banded in the photo above you can notice that all the toes are relatively the same length. Also note that instead of 3 toes forward and one behind ( Anisodactyl) like other diurnal raptors this bird has two toes forward and two behind (Zygodactyl) like an owl. Osprey are able to switch back and forth.
Osprey feet also have pads on the bottom with tiny spines, called spicules, which help them to grasp fish. These adaptations on their feet help them to catch fish which makes up about 98 percent of their diet. Osprey are much better at fishing then bald eagles are, often diving up to 2 feet under the water to catch them. Osprey are found on every continent except for Antarctica. They do not nest in South America but birds from the northern portions of North America, like the birds in these photos which were photographed here in Minnesota, can migrate over 7500 miles a year from Canada down into central South America.