This large, vocal bird is difficult to mistake for any other species, except while on the nest, when its white head seen sticking up could make a viewer think of a bald eagle. However, where these birds put their nest is a dead give-away that it’s an osprey. The bird is dark on the back, almost uniformly white on the chest and belly, save for a dark ‘necklace’ of varying proportions, more usually on the female. Head is white with a dark eye line; wings in flight often in an ‘M’ shape as it soars or hovers over water. When perched, the tips of the long wings extend past the tail. Bill is black and short, powerful legs and feet grey. Close up or in the hand, other distinctions that separate this bird from other raptors are sharp spicules on the scales on the undersides of the feet and toes; very curved talons that are, in cross section, uniquely rounded; and unusually long, slitlike, closable nostrils (nares). Immature birds have orange eyes, that change to the adult yellow in their second year, with a buffy edge to the back and wing covert feathers that wears off during their first winter. The osprey is a very old species, thought to have broken off from the ancestral accipitriform before any of the other diurnal raptors radiated off, and is considered closer to the hawks, even more so to the kites, than to the falcons.
Meet our resident Ospreys: