Birds of the Redlands - osprey

Photo: Jon Norling

Find out more about the Wellington Point osprey pair 

Scientific name:  Pandion cristatus

Status

  • Queensland: Least concern (NCA 1992)

What does it look like?

The Osprey, although a relatively large bird of prey, is noticeably smaller than a White-bellied Sea-eagle.  Ospreys have a white head with a dark stripe through the eye and down the neck. Their back is dark brown while their breast and belly are predominantly white. Females tend to have heavier brown flecking around their collar. They have distinctive bowed wings and a short and square tail while in flight.

Where do they live?

Ospreys prefer to live along Australian coastlines, except for Victoria and Tasmania, in terrestrial wetlands and on offshore islands. They can also be seen inland, usually living and hunting along rivers.

Breeding

In South East Queensland, the Osprey’s breeding season occurs from April to November. Some Osprey pairs breed every year, others every two to three years. Many return to the same nesting site year after year.

Both the female and male osprey take part in nest building, with the male doing most of the carrying and the female doing most of the arranging. Osprey nests vary in size but they are generally quite large, built using sticks and lined with seaweed and grass.

The female will usually lay a clutch of two to three eggs. These are primarily incubated by the female, for a period of 33-38 days. The male is largely occupied with providing food during this time.

Young Ospreys fledge (leave the nest) at 55-60 days after hatching, but can return to the nest to be fed for another two months.

What do they eat?

Ospreys are great hunters. They mainly feed on medium-sized fish that they catch while patrolling the coast, but they do occasionally eat crustaceans, insects, reptiles, birds and mammals. Ospreys are primarily diurnal (awake during daylight hours), however you may occasionally spot them hunting for prey at night.

An osprey can completely submerge into the water in pursuit of their prey. They have oily plumage that repels water and allows them to take flight as soon as they reach the surface.

Ospreys have extremely sharp, hooked claws and flexible toes with spiny toe pads, perfect for holding onto a slippery meal. They take their catch to a perch close-by and tear it into bite-sized pieces with their sharp beak.

What is threatening them?

  • Habitat loss and degradation of nesting sites
  • Litter in our waterways
  • Unsustainable fishing practices

Conservation 

Currently in Australia, the main threat to an Osprey’s survival is loss or degradation of nesting sites. This is why it was important Redland City Council help move the Wellington Point Ospreys from their unsafe nesting site down the road. Ospreys readily use artificial nesting platforms including lighthouses, jetty pylons and even exposed shipwrecks!

Redland City Council are currently running a Citizen Science project that includes researching the nesting sites and behaviours of coastal raptors in the Redlands.

Did you know...?

  • Average size: 50-65cm length
  • Wing span: 1.7m
  • Average weight: 1.25kg
  • Breeding Season: April – November
  • Clutch Size: 2-3 eggs
  • Incubation period: 33-38 days
  • Chicks fledge: 55-60 days.

How can you help?

• Plant more trees around local estuaries and wetlands

• Pick up litter around our waterways

• Keep our waterways healthy

• Support sustainable fishing practices

• Discard fishing lines and hooks in rubbish bins.