The birds forages almost exclusively for live fish, with other prey such as small mammals, injured birds, reptiles, amphibians and crustaceans forming only a very minor part of its diet (4) (5) (6). Hovering or circling at moderate height, it plunges down feet first to snatch fish from the water’s surface, sometimes even completely submerging in the process (2) (5). Carrying its captured prey with its long talons, it alights on an open perch or a patch of bare ground, where the catch is consumed piecemeal (4) (5).
Although usually seen singly or in pairs, in some parts of its range the osprey is loosely colonial (4) (5). During the breeding season, pairs form at the nest site following a dramatic courtship display. The main display involves the male flying slowly over the nest site giving screaming calls, whilst clasping fish or nesting material (4) (6). The large stick nest is built near the ground or high up in a tree, or on a cliff, rocky outcrop, telephone pole, dilapidated building, or even just on the ground (4) (5). The clutch size is usually around two to four eggs, which are incubated largely by the female over 35 to 38 days (5). Once hatched, the female broods and feeds the chicks, whilst the male forages for food to bring back to the nest (5). The young fledge at around a month and a half to two months old, but remain dependent on the parents birds for another two to three months, after which they disperse widely (4) (5).
Aside from sedentary populations in Australia, the Caribbean, north Africa, and the Mediterranean basin, the osprey is highly migratory (5). After the breeding season, northern populations usually venture south, often travelling large distances across the equator, where they remain for the austral summer (4) (5).