Osprey (Pandion haliaetus): Barry Kent MacKay

The Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) is a large and very distinctive raptor that is found throughout most of the temperate and tropical regions of the world. I have shown a bird from Ontario, Canada. These birds weigh about 1.7 kg (3 lb, 12 oz). Those that nest in the Caribbean region are very slightly, but identifiably different looking, as are the Eurasian birds. Most distinctive of all are the smaller ones from Australia and Tasmania, often considered a separate species, called the Eastern Osprey (P. cristatus).  Under that nomenclature the others are called the Western Osprey. But all are obvious and easily identifiable and all are primarily fish-eaters (piscivores), thus almost invariably found near significant bodies of water, fresh, salt or brackish. It has a lot of common names and has often been persecuted as a competitor for fish desired by sport or commercial anglers.  That has changed a lot, but even so we have had birds shot and nests destroyed even recently, here in Ontario, where for the most part Ospreys are highly regarded and it is understood that they only can access a small percentage of the population of whatever they eat. But among the fish-eating birds they do go after the largest, and there are grim tales of Ospreys drowning after locking on to a fish too big to overcome. On average fish caught weigh from about 150 to 300 grams (about 5 to 10 oz) but they have been known to take up to 2 kg (4 lb 7oz), and they are not fussy as to shape or species (eels, small sharks and rays, flounders…all fair game). 

As is true of owls, the outer toe is reversable.  The soles of the feet are covered in sharply projecting nodule-like scales called spicules, and the talons are long and very sturdy, all adaptations for catching slippery fish. Bald Eagles are notorious for “stealing” fish from the smaller Ospreys, a behaviour called keptoparasitism, and no easy task since once an Osprey grabs a fish it is not inclined to let go!

Usually mating for life the pair, taking several years to reach sexual maturity, share in nesting duties, producing two to four eggs.  The bulky stick nest is large and conspicuous and while often in trees or on cliffs, also is often placed on human-made structures such as transformers and telephone poles. 

The painting is in oils on birch panel and is 36 X 24 inches.  I have also attached some much earlier Osprey paintings, the first an oil, the second a study in acrylics.

Barry Kent MacKay

Bird Artist, Illustrator

Studio: (905) 472 9731

Purchase, print, product info: https://fineartamerica.com/profiles/barry-mackay 


31 Colonel Butler Drive

Markham, ON L3P 6B6 Canada

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