Now that all of the ice has left the rivers and lakes the osprey have returned to Minnesota. Osprey are found on every continent in the world except for Antarctica. They nest on all continents except Antarctica and South America. Osprey do migrate to South America, from North America, during the winter. However they do not nest in South America.
The osprey is sometimes called a fishing hawk. This is because their primary food source is fish. However they are not really a hawk. They actually have their own genus, Pandion, and family Pandionidae. This is because Osprey have some unique characteristics and behaviors that differ from other hawks, falcons, and eagles. First off all of their toes are relatively the same size, unlike other diurnal raptors which have a longer toe called a hallux. They also have the ability, like owls, to shift their outer toe so that they can have two toes facing front and two facing back instead of 3 forword and one back like hawks, eagles, and falcons.
These adaptations to their feet are designed to help them catch fish. Switching their toes to two forward and two back helps them to hold onto slippery fish. They also have rough pads on the bottom to help them to grasp a fish. They are much better at catching fish than the bald eagles are, actually plunging up to a couple of feet below the water surface to catch their prey.
Unfortunately it is dangerous world and a passing eagle or turkey vulture will not hesitate to try and steal the osprey's hard earned meal. Osprey were once rare here in Minnesota due to DDT, which affected many different species of raptors. Through release programs the population has rebounded nicely here and is now stable and healthy. Half of the pictures in this post were taken in Minnesota the other half were taken in south Texas.