© Copyright: Images: Jari Peltomäki, M. & W. von Wright (Kansalliskirjasto, The National Library of Finland). Recording: Jan-Erik Bruun. All rights reserved.


Pandion haliaetus

  • Family: Hawks – Accipitridae
  • Appearance: A medium-sized bird of prey, mainly pale on colouring. Wings long, especially primary wing feathers, which have only four finger-like protruding feathers. When soaring wing elbows held forward creating gull-like profile. Often hovers before diving into water to catch fish.
  • Size: Length 52–60 cm, wingspan 152–167 cm, weight 1.2–2 kg (male), 1.5–2.2 kg (female).
  • Nest: A large pile of twigs and branches built high on top of a tree, a navigational marker or a trigonometric marker. Lined with moss, peat, straw and lichen. All trees with Osprey nests are automatically protected in Finland.
  • Breeding: 1–4 eggs laid from late April, incubated mainly by female for 34–38 days. Fledglings learn to fly within 51–59 days.
  • Distribution: Breeds throughout Finland. May nest in extensive areas of forest, but always seeks out food in fishing waters that may be far from the nest. Finnish breeding population estimated at 1,150–1,300 pairs.
  • Migration: By day. Autumn migration commences in mid August and peaks in early September, with return migration in April. Most birds winter in West Africa. Ospreys fitted with satellite transmitters in Finland have provided plenty of new data on the species’ migratory behaviour.
  • Diet: Fish.
  • Calls: A faint whistle and a more audible “byip”.

Ospreys are members of the hawk family. They have dark brown upper parts and mainly white underparts with a dark chest band. Their smallish heads are mainly white, with a dark stripe running form their beak through their eyes and down onto the neck. Seen from beneath their underwings are white with a black elbow patch, black tips to the primary wing feathers, black trailing edges to their secondaries, and faint dark lengthwise streaks. Their tails have dark crosswise streaks. In autumn, juvenile Ospreys can be recognised by the scaly appearance of their white-flecked dark brown upper wings and backs.

Ospreys have bluish grey legs, black beaks with a bluish grey cere, and yellow irises. Their wings appear very elongated, narrow, and clearly angled at the elbow. In flight profile their wings are held curving downwards. They may look like a large gull in flight, but they are more sturdily built. When they spot a fish, they hover in position before diving down to grab it in their talons. After a successful catch they immediately take flight from the water with the fish held in their claws.

Other species from the same family

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