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Osprey

The Whitsundays are lucky to be blessed with a prominent species in the famous raptor the Osprey.

The locals are fish eaters and are easily identified by the necklace banding on their upper chest.
Ospreys have colonized every continent in the world with the only exception being the south pole Antarctica.

Unfortunately their numbers are on the decline in the northern hemisphere. Ospreys are still common along the Northern Australian coastline and usually easily spotted around the islands and along the coast of Queensland.

Osprey eagles are mainly noticeable skimming the tree tops of the cool forests that blanket the Whitsunday Island slopes or soaring high above the water in search of prey. White Bellied Sea Eagles and Ospreys frequent similar habitats and sometimes battle for food. Eagles often force Osprey to drop fish that they have caught and steal them midair. Their white heads also have a distinctive black eye stripe that goes down the side of their faces. Osprey usually reach 60cm in length with a 1.8m wing span. They are also slightly smaller in comparison to the White Bellied Sea Eagle. Osprey eagles are also known as Sea Eagles, Fish Eagles or Fish Hawk.

Ospreys are superb fishers and indeed eat little else fish make up some 99 percent of their diet. They hunt by diving to the water's surface from some 30 to 100 feet (9m to 30m) up. They have gripping pads on their feet to help them pluck fish from the water with their curved claws and carry them for great distances. In flight, Ospreys will orient the fish head first to ease wind resistance. Most Ospreys are migratory birds that breed in the north and migrate south for the winter.

They lay eggs (typically three), which both parents help to incubate. Nesting birds are easily disturbed and often fail to breed or leave the area if the nest is approached too closely. Use binoculars for a rewarding view without harassing these inspiring creatures. These coastal birds of prey, which nest on the Whitsunday Islands, indulge in spectacular aerial courtship displays in the breeding season.

Sam Clapham
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