Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Bird That Stands Alone

A very unique bird of prey that I would like to introduce to you is the Osprey (Pandion haliaetus). 

Ospreys are so special that they are in a class all their own.  There are eight different classes of birds of prey; Eagles, Hawks, Falcons, Owls, Vultures, Condors, Kites, and Ospreys.
Bennett the Osprey
At World Bird Sanctuary we have a very special bird named Bennett--our only Osprey.  Bennett was found in a field in Wentzville, Missouri in the cold of February 2013.  It was a very rainy day as well and he was soaked to the skin when he was rescued. 

When Bennett was examined at our hospital it was discovered that he did not have any physical injuries.  He appeared to have arthritis in his joints.  He was very fortunate to have been found, as he most likely would have perished if not rescued. 

Bennett got his name from Bennett Springs Park and Hatchery in Lebanon, Missouri.  The conservationists there are lifetime adoptive parents.  Their fish hatchery donates their excess fish to WBS to help feed the birds.  And, since the Osprey’s main food is fish Bennett receives some of that fish as his meal.  Below is a picture of Bennett.

Ospreys are found on every continent of the earth except Antarctica.  These birds eat about 99% fish in their diet, so they are found mainly around waterways, such as rivers, lakes, and coasts.  In North America, they are found on the Gulf Coast of Florida, and the Gulf of California year round.  During breeding season their range extends to Alaska, Canada, and many parts of the continental U.S.  During the winter they migrate towards the California coast and Texas coast.  They will migrate as far south as Mexico, and even into South America.

The name Osprey actually means bird of prey (avis prede) in Latin.  Ospreys range from 3-4.5lbs (1400-2000g) in weight and stand at a height of 1.75-1.9 ft (21-23in) tall.  They have an astounding wingspan ranging from 5-6 feet long as well. 

Do you know what sets ospreys apart from other birds of prey?  Believe it or not, it’s their feet!  Ospreys have feet that are zygodactyl, which means that they have two toes pointing forward and two toes pointing backward.  However, one backwards toe can move forward if needed.  The only other birds of prey that have zygodactyls feet are owls.  Ospreys are the only diurnal (day active) birds to have these special feet.  All other birds of prey have anisodactyl feet.  This means they have three toes pointing forward and one pointing backward.  Below you can see the difference between an osprey’s foot and a peregrine falcon’s foot.

Photo of an Osprey foot
Photo of a Peregrine Falcon foot

Bennett is thought to be around 15-20 years old because of his behavior.  An Osprey’s  lifespan in the wild is usually around this same range.  In captivity however their age can be as much as 30-35 years old.  The oldest recorded wild osprey was 25 years and 2 months old.  Some different reasons why animals live longer in captivity include a steady diet, no predators, medical attention available, and housing available as well.  Since Bennett has arthritis, we sprinkle Arthriease on his fish every day. 

Bennett is available for adoption in our Adopt a Bird program.  To find out more information, call 636-861-3225.  All adoption donations are tax deductible.  

Bennett can be seen on the exhibit line just past the World Bird Sanctuary Wildlife Hospital, mostly during warm months. 

The World Bird Sanctuary is open daily from 8am-5pm 363 days of the year. 

Bennett is a very interesting bird.  You should stop on by and visit him! 

Submitted by Lisbeth Hodges, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

1 comment:

mark moore said...

Osprey are not the only diurnal raptor with zagodactyl feet. Some members of the kite family, specifically of the genus "Elanus" have facultative zagodactyl feet. One example in North America is the white-tailed kite.