Creatures of the Amazon
The Osprey

By Adrian Walker

Osprey, Pandion haliaetus

Many creatures of the Amazon live nowhere else on Earth, however some live almost everywhere and are nothing more than mere visitors to the Amazon region.

The Osprey or Pandion haliaetus as it is known throughout its near worldwide range is a migratory non breeding visitor to the Amazon, with most individuals being juveniles who fly from Florida in September or October and remain in South America until April when they return north.

Distinguished by its white head, prominent brown "necklace" and large size, the birds have a 2M wingspan and a body length of around 60 to 70 cms making them formidable predators.

Their diet is exclusively fish and perhaps this has enabled the birds to colonise all of Europe, most of Asia and Australia and North America. Only the North American and Northern European forms are migratory, all others being resident.

The Osprey is an unusual raptor in that it has a reversible outer toe which no other diurnal bird of prey possesses but is common amongst Owls. This adaptation is designed to to allow the birds to turn two toes forward and two backward for grasping slippery fish more easily.

Sexes are similar and difficult to separate unless a nesting pair can be found when the small size difference (males are slightly smaller) and differing plumages may be observed. However as the species is non breeding in the Amazon, this is not possible for local observers.

Ospreys are regular visitors to the Itaya River and may be seen during the October to April period from the boulevard in Iquitos.
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