Bird species of the month – Osprey

As we come to the end of the summer months, we take a look at one of the areas favourite breeding birds found in here in the Cairngorms National park. The Osprey is a summer migrant and one of many birds of prey found in the UK and Scotland. As they now begin their journeys back to their wintering grounds, we look at our favourite things about these amazing travellers.

Flying Osprey (James Stevens)

These incredible migrators will travel around 5,000 miles from Western Africa each Spring to the British Isles. Female Osprey will arrive first around mid to late March with males arriving two weeks after. In late summer, the females will then leave early, leaving males and juveniles to follow on later. The young Osprey will stay in Africa for two years before returning to Britain to nest themselves. Most Osprey will stay in the same nest site with the same partners for generations. They use a loud high pitch, “chirp, chirp chirp,” to ward off any predators to nests like the Common Buzzard who will try to knock young osprey off nests.

Young Osprey (Kate M)

Their numbers have continued to increase in the UK after their reintroduction in the 1950’s, with most sites in strathspey now protected by the RSPB. You can often see them fishing local lochs and the length of the river Spey on its way to the coast. A short trip up to our north coasts from the Cairngorms, you will see them fishing in estuaries and bays.

Wing stretching in the nest (Kate M)

They feed predominantly on salmon and other fish, returning to the nest to feed chicks. They dive into the water with talons stretched out to catch the fish before lifting their heavy wet wings to fly off, shaking in mid-air to continue flying. They also have transparent eyelids to protect their eyes from the water they dive into.

Balancing (Kate M)

They truly are magnificent birds with a wingspan of 152 – 167cm, and the third largest raptor in the UK. On a visit next year to the Cairngorms, you may be lucky enough to see one fishing in one of our many lochs.