Bird Families

SCOPE (Pandion haliaetus)


There is a small and very ancient city of Skopin in the Ryazan region, whose coat of arms and flag is decorated with a flying eagle. And this is not just an abstract silhouette of a bird of prey, but an exact image of an osprey - one of the most interesting representatives of the hawk order.

In ancient Russia, "osprey" was the name for smart, savvy, economical owners who deserve trust. This word was given to a bird that was admired, gave a name to the city, and even the Russian princes Skopin-Shuisky wished to have this remarkable word in their surname.

What is so unusual about a bird that went down in history with such a significant name? Every ornithologist who has studied the life of the osprey will consider such a question an insult, because this bird is unique to everyone: the features of its structure, habitat and nutrition.

Osprey male in flight over the nest.

What does an osprey look like

Osprey belongs to the Skopin family, which includes 1 genus with a single species. If you know what the osprey looks like, it is no longer possible to confuse the bird with other representatives of the hawk.

Osprey are large carnivores, growing up to 55-58 cm in length. Females are heavier than males, weighing 1.6 to 2 kg, and males usually weighing 1.2 to 1.6 kg. The average wingspan of an osprey reaches 145-170 cm, in females this figure is 10% more.

The osprey's wings and upper body are dark brown, the head, neck, chest and belly are pure white. A characteristic feature of the color is a speckled necklace around the neck, clearly visible in the photo of the osprey, and a dark brown stripe on both sides of the head, extending from the beak through the eye and descending to the neck.

The beak of the osprey is coal-black, the wax and limbs are lead-gray. Young osprey acquire an adult color at the age of one and a half, then their red eyes turn yellow. However, even until then, they look almost like adults, but with a less bright necklace and some mottling of plumage.

One of the distinguishing features of the osprey is its wings, which are well arched at the wrist joint. But the main feature of the osprey is long fingers with very strong, convex and strongly curved claws, perfectly adapted for hunting. The backward-facing outer finger serves as an excellent tool for holding down slippery fish, the osprey's primary power source.

Scientists distinguish 4 subspecies of osprey, representatives of which have common morphological characteristics, but differ in size and color depending on the habitat.

Where do the osprey live

Another amazing feature of predators is their vast range, covering both hemispheres, with the exception of Antarctica.

The inhabitants of the tropical and subtropical zones are the smallest and sedentary. Birds distributed in temperate latitudes are larger and darker in color, they spend winter in hot countries, and in spring they migrate back to their nesting sites.

Throughout their range, osprey are distributed extremely unevenly and it is not possible to accurately calculate the population size. Osprey is not listed in the International Red Data Book and is considered the species of least concern. However, in Russia and Belarus, predators are rare, therefore, they are listed in the Red Data Books, and in Finland, persons who killed osprey are fined 1692 euros.

Osprey leads a solitary lifestyle outside the mating season. These predators are not conflicting and do not differ in territoriality. They always settle near water bodies - lakes, rivers and reservoirs, rich in fish - their main and practically only menu.

Osprey nutritional features

Due to the fish's predilection for fish, the bird is often called a fish or river eagle. Moreover, they do not differ in legibility and willingly eat any fish that they can catch. Other bird species, reptiles, amphibians and rodents, make up about 1% of the osprey's diet. Osprey living in hot countries hunt even young alligators.

Predators rarely attack from an ambush, preferring to hover above the water surface at a height of 10 to 40 m.Noticing a potential victim, the osprey descends in a characteristic pose with long wings laid back and strong paws protruding forward. It looks great in the osprey photo. The feathered predator rapidly plunges its deadly claws into the water leaving the fish no chance.

Osprey during the attack.

A sharp, almost horizontal flap of the wings and the osprey soars in a halo of spray with its prey tightly clenched in its claws. Interestingly, to enhance aerodynamics, the predator turns the fish headfirst in flight. The strength of the osprey is striking: some predators are able to lift fish weighing up to 2 kg from the water, which is almost identical to the bird's own weight.

Among the hawks, there are other fish lovers - eagles. However, their method of obtaining food is different: for example, a bald eagle grabs prey at the very surface of the water and never wets feathers. Osprey, on the other hand, dives freely under the water thanks to the greasy structure of feathers, which repels water well.

Special leathery valves that close the nostrils during diving help the bird not choke. The predator looks amazing after swimming, shaking off the water like a wet dog. The osprey begins to eat its prey from the head, the remains are either thrown away or carried to the nest.

Breeding osprey

The mating season of these birds depends on the range. Sedentary populations breed from December to March, migratory ones prepare for breeding in April and May.

The males are the first to fly to the nesting sites and, while waiting for the females, perform intricate pirouettes in the sky, announcing their arrival and scaring off the neighbors.

A female osprey plucked leaves from a nearby tree for a nest tray.

Most ospreys are monogamous and mate for life. However, with a high density of nesting sites, the male is able to feed and protect two females, although the first nest remains his priority.

Nesting sites are always located near water bodies, but in search of food for himself and the female, the male moves away from the nest at a distance of up to 14 km. The nest of an osprey is very close to the neighboring one, at a distance of about 100 m, and sometimes the interval between nests is several km.

The nest can be built on a rocky cliff, at a fork in the branches of a dead tree, on an island in a lake, or even on an old buoy. Both parents are engaged in the search for building material, however, it is mainly the female who builds the nest. She arranges twigs, holding them together with stalks of grasses and algae, and also uses everything that can be found at the bottom of the reservoir, such as plastic bags and pieces of fishing line.

Sometimes a couple uses the nest from season to season, making sure to complete and renew it. When the nest is ready, the responsibilities of the parents-to-be are separated.


Vladimir Bondar, env. R. Dnipro, Mogilev district

Apparently nesting throughout Belarus

Family Skopins (Pandionidae)

In Belarus - P. h. haliaetus (subspecies inhabits the entire Palaearctic part of the species range).

Rare breeding migratory and transit migratory species. Distributed widely, but unevenly, in Poozerie it is found somewhat more often than in the rest of the territory. In general, almost the entire population of the species is concentrated in the northern part of the republic. It is unevenly distributed over the territory of the Belarusian Poozerie: it is concentrated in areas with a large number of lakes and raised bogs. A certain tendency can be traced: the farther from the channel of the Western Dvina, the more rare the osprey population becomes. In Polesie, there are isolated cases of nesting in the twentieth century. At present, the osprey is also rare in the south, but apparently continues to nest irregularly in Polesie. So far there is no explanation for this, because in Polesie there are a large number of floodplain lakes and fish-breeding ponds, and a well-developed hydrological network.

Vladimir Bondar. Mogilev district

Quite a large bird of prey with long, relatively narrow wings.Adults and juveniles of both sexes are colored quite contrastingly: the dorsal side is dark brown, the crown is white with brown streaks, the nape feathers are long and form a small crest, the flight and tail feathers are dark brown, the ventral side is white with brown streaks on the crop. The beak is black, bluish at the base, the claws are black, the wax and legs are bluish-gray. Male weight 1.25-1.52 kg, female 1.5-2.1 kg. Body length (both sexes) 56-62 cm, wingspan 147-169 cm.

In spring, the osprey arrives after the opening of water bodies, in late March - early April. Most often it can be seen while hunting, flying at a low altitude above the surface of the water. Voice - high and loud, abrupt "cube", most often heard when the bird is disturbed at the nest.

Vladimir Bondar, b. Dnipro, Mogilev district

The habitat of the bird is closely related to the reservoirs rich in fish. But it nests in trees, so a prerequisite for habitation is the presence of at least small areas of tall forest or even single old trees, sometimes 2-3 km from the nearest reservoir.

The osprey avoids densely populated areas, more often for nesting it chooses deaf, hard-to-reach forests, sometimes significantly far from forage reservoirs. Typical nesting sites are vast, pine-covered bogs adjacent to large bodies of water, as a rule, to lakes, or located nearby. Occasionally it also occurs where numerous lakes among the surrounding moss bogs are interspersed with dry ridges with dense old spruce forests, mixed forests and pine forests.

Vladimir Bondar, b. Dnipro, Mogilev district

Breeds in separate pairs, which are located at a great distance from one another. The nest is arranged either near the top (especially if it is dry), or at the very top, which is typical when settling on pines growing in raised bogs. For nesting, it chooses a sparse forest stand, a single or dominant tree, sometimes withered. Most often, the most suitable species is pine, sometimes spruce, oak, birch. Usually it is a pine with a flat, often shriveled top. The height of the location of the nests varies from 4 to 23 m. During the observation period, 58.3% of pairs had one nest each, 30.6% had two nests, 8.3% (3 pairs) had three nests and 2.8 % (1 pair) - five nests. Presumably, the number of used nests in a particular pair reflects, on the one hand, the presence of a sufficient number of trees on the nesting site, towering above the rest of the trees and having a "flat" crown, and on the other hand, individual specific features of the stereotype of a particular pair's behavior.

Vladimir Bondar, b. Dnipro, Mogilev district

The nest is a large structure of thick branches that the bird collects on the ground or breaks off from trees. The flat tray of the nest is lined with moss, pieces of dry peat, grass rhizomes, and sedge bunches uprooted. A freshly built nest is quite flat, but the bird has been using it for many years, and over time it increases several times in height, becomes massive and often overturns in a strong wind. The osprey is very attached not only to its nesting site, but also to the location of the nest. Often it stubbornly nests on the same tree, despite the fact that the nest on it does not last long. Occasionally nests in atypical places (at the top of a concrete support of a high-voltage line among farmland, and the nest itself was absent: the masonry was laid on the upper platform lined with pieces of peat and dry grass). Nest height 25 cm, diameter 102 cm, tray depth 7 cm, diameter 28 cm.

Vladimir Bondar, b. Dnipro, Mogilev district

The most delicate place of osprey biology during the nesting period is the building of nests on the tops of trees. During strong winds and downpours, nests often collapse together with clutches and chicks. Since 1983 in the Vitebsk region. work is underway to build artificial nests for rare birds of prey.The osprey willingly occupies artificial nesting sites: the population is up to 39%. Artificial nests were found to be more durable and were built as far as possible from settlements and the busiest roads. Analysis of the data obtained showed that the nesting success and productivity are higher in pairs that bred in artificial nests: 94% of cases versus 85%, 2.00 fledglings per active nest in artificial ones versus 1.47 fledglings in natural nests.

Vladimir Bondar. Mogilev district

A full clutch consists of 3, rarely 2 eggs. As an exception, there may be 4 of them. In Poozerie osprey clutches from 2 to 4 eggs were recorded, on average 2.97 ± 0.42 eggs per clutch.

The shell is coarse-grained, matte. Its main background is white with a yellowish, occasionally reddish or bluish tint. Superficial spotting is often intense. Its color varies from light brown to reddish brown and dark chestnut brown. Some eggs have deep gray-purple and light or dark gray spots. The spots are large, but there are also small ones. Towards the blunt end, they thicken somewhat. Egg weight 71 g, length 64 mm (62-64 mm), diameter 46 mm (45-52 mm). The sizes of osprey eggs in Poozerie range: 57.8-66.8x42.8-49.8 mm, on average 61.86 ± 2.27x45.99 ± 1.51 mm, max - 66.8x45.1 and 64 , 5x49.8 mm, min-57.8x44.4 and 63.0x42.8 mm.

Vladimir Bondar, b. Pronya, Chaussky district (Mogilev region)

The bird starts laying eggs in late April or early May. One brood per year. Both birds incubate for 35-38 days (according to other sources, only the female). The male brings the fish to the female and replaces it during feeding. The first weeks of the chicks' life, the female stays with the chicks, the male carries the fish to the nest. During the incubation period, males bring 2–3 fish into the nest in 8 hours, and during the feeding period, 3–5 fish specimens over the same period of time. Females hunt only in the post-nesting period. Young birds leave the nest at the age of about 1.5-2 months.

In the nests with newly hatched chicks in Poozerie, from 1 to 3 chicks were recorded, on average 2.34 ± 0.79 chicks. The number of juveniles per successful nest ranged from 1 to 3 per brood, on average 2.32 ± 0.68 fledglings, and per active nest within the range from 0 to 3 juveniles, on average 1.86 ± 1.11 fledglings. Breeding success ranges from 60 to 93%, on average over 9 years - 78%.

In autumn it flies away rather late, meeting up to the end of October.

Vladimir Bondar, b. Dnipro, Mogilev district

The osprey is a stenophagous predator, it feeds on fish of different species (roach, bream, burbot, pike, etc.), the basis of its catch is individuals weighing 300-500 g, but sometimes it successfully hunts up to 2 specimens, and according to some sources - even up to 3 kg. Among the occasional prey, mouse-like rodents, frogs, and ground squirrels were noted, but this is typical for the period of ice drift, when the water is very turbid. Of the birds, the osprey attacked non-flying merganser chicks.

The osprey looks out for prey by flying around a river or lake at an altitude of 70 meters or more. Noticing a fish, it hangs in the air for a few moments, fluttering its wings, and then puts its wings behind its back and throws itself into the water. Most often, the osprey manages to grab a fish near the surface of the water, but sometimes the bird is partially or completely submerged in the water.

The main hunting biotope of the osprey is lakes and rivers. In calm sunny weather, osprey hunt all over the lake, and in case of strong wind, rain, strong ripples or waves, they hunt either in small calm coves and bays, or fly away 5-10 km to small rivers, where they hunt along clean stretches.

Vladimir Bondar, b. Dnipro, Mogilev district

Conflicts between the osprey and the golden eagle and the white-tailed eagle were repeatedly observed. As a rule, this occurs in the area of ​​osprey nests in raised bogs, where the golden eagle nests and occasionally the white-tailed eagle hunts. Several cases of kleptoparasitism of the white-tailed eagle in relation to the osprey were noted, when the eagles attacked male ospreys carrying fish and forced the latter to abandon their prey. Osprey is very rarely caught by the golden eagle.There is evidence that osprey (adults and chicks) were killed by a goshawk several times right on the nest. Osprey are very calm about the proximity of snake eagle and merlin nests (300–500 m). These species even benefit from such closeness: as soon as one of them raises the alarm, all the "neighbors" are immediately in the air.

Vladimir Bondar, b. Dnipro, Mogilev district

The main threat factors for the osprey are the fall of massive nests during heavy rains and under the influence of strong winds, the death of nests during fires in raised bogs, the predatory activity of crows and martens, which ravage clutches and abduct small chicks. Adult osprey occasionally fall prey to the golden eagle, eagle owl and goshawk.

But, nevertheless, man remains the main enemy of the osprey. In the middle of the twentieth century. there was a significant reduction in the number of osprey within the range as a result of the impact of anthropogenic factors. In 98% of cases, when it was possible to establish the reasons for the death of birds, they were killed by humans. During migration through the CIS countries, 47% of Finnish ospreys shoot back, 12% die in fishing nets, 4% are electrocuted on power lines. It should also be borne in mind that many nesting areas of osprey cease to exist during final felling in forests, during peat extraction and fires in raised bogs.

The number of osprey in Belarus in recent decades is estimated at 120-180 pairs. According to the latest estimate (Ivanovskiy, 2017), only in Poozerie there are 150–180 nesting pairs.

Osprey is a protected species in Belarus and Europe. Threats: poaching, death in nets.

The maximum age recorded in Europe is 26 years 11 months.

Vladimir Bondar, b. Dnipro, Mogilev district

Breeding offspring

At intervals of 1-2 days, the female lays from 2 to 4 white eggs with brownish-red specks. Both parents incubate the clutch for about 40 days, but even when the female remains in the nest, the caring husband brings part of his prey to the nest. And if he has two nests in his care, he manages to feed both females.

Chicks hatch in the same order that the eggs were laid. Newborns are covered with light white fluff and the first 10 days of life the female warms them and protects them from bad weather, the male brings food at this time. To feed the female and offspring, he needs to catch at least 3-10 fish weighing about 100 g each. The catch is carefully cut into pieces and fed to the chicks. If the year is hungry and there is not enough food, the chicks that hatch first survive.


1A "Critically ill" - 1A, KS. Osprey in the Red Data Book of the Russian Federation is classified as "3 - Rare". In the Red Book of the USSR it is included in the category “III. Decreasing species ”with the status - a rare species.

Category according to the criteria of the IUCN Red List

The regional population belongs to the category "Critically Endangered" - Critically Endangered, CR, D. RA Mnatsekanov.

Brief morphological description

The osprey is a rather large predator, ♂ 560–568 mm long, ♀ 575–615 mm, wingspan ♀ 147–166.3 cm, ♂ 154–168.3 cm. Weight ♀ up to 1.6 kg, ♂ up to 2 kg. The top is dark brown, the bottom is light, often with an ocher band or streaks on the chest.

A dark streak runs through the eye. On the crown of the head there is a small light crest. The eye is yellow, the beak is dark. The waxes and legs are bluish-gray, the tarsus is covered with small shields forming a reticulated pattern. The underside of the toes is covered with sharp spines, which help to keep slippery prey [4, 6].

In nature, it is well distinguished by its two-tone body coloration. In flight, attention is drawn to the contrasting coloring of the wings, their sharp bend, a striped rounded tail. It differs from the serpentine in flight by a dark spot on the fold of the wing, narrower wings, a light goiter, limited by a dark band on the chest.


The global area covers the territory of Europe and Asia to the border of tall forests in the north, to the Himalayas and the Philippine Islands in the south, Northwest, East and South Africa, the islands of the Indo-Australian archipelago, Australia, North America [4, 6, 11].

In the Russian Federation, it lives from the western borders to Kamchatka, Sakhalin and the southern Kuril Islands. In the north, the distribution boundary reaches the middle part of the Kola Peninsula, between the White Sea and the Urals up to 670 s. sh., in the Ob basin up to 660 s. sh., to the mouth of the Lower Tunguska, lower river. Vilyuya, the lower reaches of the river. Aldan, on the Okhotsk coast to the river. Gizhigi, in Kamchatka to Avachi.

In the KK, the osprey is a nesting, migratory and irregularly wintering species. Regional breeding area at the beginning of the 20th century. included the lower course of the river. Kuban and, apparently, estuarine areas of rivers flowing into the Black Sea, as well as areas of the flooded zone with coastal woody vegetation [2, 7, 9].

By the 1950s – 1960s, nesting was supposed to be in the delta part of the river. Kuban and further north along the lower reaches of some steppe rivers (Chelbas river and others) [8, 9]. One pair bred in the 1980s – 90s in the Krasny Les tract, in this region the birds have kept themselves in recent years.

Currently, the regional nesting area requires clarification due to the absence of osprey nests in recent decades. Nesting osprey is assumed in the floodplain forests of the r. Kuban from Temryuk to Kropotkin and, possibly, in the forests along the river. The channels, near the Varnavinsky and Kryukovsky reservoirs.

During migrations, the osprey is regularly observed on the Black Sea coast, in the Azov region, in the northern part of the region along small steppe rivers, in the Kuban delta, in mountainous regions. The spring migration is poorly expressed: on the Black Sea coast, in the mountainous part of the region and along small steppe rivers, birds were recorded singly.

Regularly occurs in the spring migration in the vicinity of Krasnodar, as well as in the Azov and lower reaches of the river. Kuban - places with rich fish resources. Autumn migration was recorded along the entire length of the Black Sea region from the mouth of the river. Psou to Taman, in the flooded zone, on reservoirs in the central part of the region [16–18].

In steppe districts, on small rivers, remote from large water bodies, birds were observed less frequently [1, 9], and they were observed irregularly in the mountains [9, 13, 14]. In winter, the osprey was occasionally recorded in the central part of the region and in the Sochi region [12, 13].

Features of biology and ecology

Osprey is a specialized ichthyophage that prefers to nest at a small distance from water bodies. Nests are usually arranged on the tops of tall trees. It builds nests from dry branches, the size of the nests reaches 1 m and more in diameter, the height of the building is 50–70 cm. It starts nesting at the end of April – May.

Clutch usually consists of 2-3 eggs. Incubation lasts 35 days, chicks are in the nest for about 8 weeks. Stenophagus: the diet is dominated by fish, which the osprey tracks in flight, from time to time hovering in the air. It catches fish by throwing it into the water, often hiding under water completely, less often snatching it in gliding flight.

Under unfavorable conditions that complicate hunting for fish (fog, muddy water, etc.), it can feed on frogs, rodents, birds. Osprey nesting on the territory of the region, probably occurs periodically, at the same time it is regularly noted as a flying species in the Eastern Azov region, the valley of the river. Kuban and some of its tributaries.

Spring migration runs from late March to mid-May [5, 12], autumn migration starts from late August and lasts until mid-November, the height of migrations occurs in the third decade of October.

Number and trends

The global population is estimated at 25-30 thousand breeding pairs. 300-400 pairs nest in European Russia. An endangered species in the KK fauna.

According to expert estimates, the number of osprey in KK does not exceed 3-4 breeding pairs. In summer, 10–15 osprey individuals form a group of non-breeding birds.

On the spring migration, single birds are not recorded annually [5, 9, 13], in autumn it is more common in mountains and places far from large water bodies, where single specimens were observed [13, 14], in the flooded zone it occurs more often, was recorded as single specimens, and a pair of birds [5, 9, 13, 14, 16–18].

Limiting factors

Reduction of habitable and nesting places due to the development of floodplain forest areas and an increase in the disturbance factor.

Necessary and additional security measures

Creation of reserves in potentially suitable habitat for the species by giving them a conservation status, including the organization of an ornithological reserve on the territory of the Krasny Les and Cherny Les tracts in the Krasnoarmeisky District. Placement of artificial nesting platforms in forest areas potentially suitable for nesting osprey.

Sources of information. Red Data Book of Krasnodar Territory 1. Belik, Peklo, 1989a, 2. Brauner, 1913, 3. Ganusevich, 2001c, 4. Dementyev, 1951c, 5. Ilyukh, Zabolotny, 1999, 6. Koblik, 2001a, 7. Kudashev, 1916– 1917, 8. Oleinikov et al., 1967, 9. Ochapovsky, 1967a, 10. Pererva, 1984b, 11. Stepanyan, 2003, 12. Strokov, 1960, 13. Tilba, Mnatsekanov, 2002, 14. Turov, 1932, 15 IUCN, 2004, 16. Unpublished data of M. A. Dinkevich, 17. Unpublished data of T. V. Korotkiy, 18. Unpublished data of the author. Compiled by. R. A. Mnatsekanov.