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Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2007

ANIMAL TRACKER

Osprey


* Japanese name: Misago
* Scientific name: Pandion haliaetus
* Description: A distinctive, magnificent bird, with a wingspan of 180 cm, a body up to 60 cm long, and pure white underparts. The top side of the body is a deep brown, the head is white with a masklike stripe over the eyes that drapes onto the neck like a bandanna. If you were ever close enough to study the eyes, you would see a golden iris. If the color of the feathers isn't enough to distinguish it, the short tail and the four fingerlike feathers of the wings making drooping "hands" will settle the identification. The bill and the talons are black. The call is a "yewk yewk" noise, and when the bird is on the nest, it makes a "cheereek" call. It is also known as a fish hawk, which is the meaning of Uo-taka, the other Japanese word for the osprey.
* Where to find them: Ospreys are found from Hokkaido to Kyushu, but like most creatures featured in Animal Tracker, there are fewer ospreys than there used to be, and they are classified as "near-threatened." Ospreys make a large pile of sticks for a nest, building it near water, whether that is a salt marsh, a mangrove swamp, a lake or a river.
* Food: Fish. The outer toe is reversible, so the osprey can grasp its prey with two toes in front and two behind. Ospreys sight their prey while flying over water, then hover and plunge up to a meter below the surface to catch the fish.
* Special features: Ospreys are beautifully adapted to catching fish. The scales on the feet point backward, the better to grasp hold of fish, and their nostrils close when they plunge underwater. Sometimes the fish is so securely grasped that the bird has trouble releasing it if it turns out to be heavier than anticipated. Despite the lower numbers, and the fact that the birds mate with a partner for life (20 to 25 years), male ospreys still manage to find females other than their partners to mate with — though they don't stay around to help raise the chicks of any extra-pair females.

PHOTO COURTESY OF BIO-IMAGE NET



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