Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)
This hawk is a highly specialized fish eater, seldom found far from water. The Osprey plunges feet first into the water to capture fish swimming near the surface. Rough sandpaper-like spicules on the bottoms of its feet allow the Osprey a good grip on slippery prey.It is a large bird measuring 21 to 24 inches long with a wingspan from 4x/2 to 6 feet. Soaring in the air the Osprey resembles a gull. Its long, narrow wings are bent in the shape of a stretched out “M.” Seen from below, the hawk is white with a black patch at the bend of each wing. Its head is white with a broad dark stripe through the cheeks, and its upperparts are dark brown.In the mid 20th century Ospreys declined in numbers, due mainly to the indiscriminate use of pesticides. Since 1972, with the banning of DDT and many other harmful chemicals, Osprey numbers have greatly increased. Successful management techniques used by New Jersey’s Division of Fish, Game and Wildlife, including providing nesting platforms, have also aided in their comeback here. Although still listed as a threatened species in New Jersey, their large stick nests are once again visible from the major highways along the shore.