Bird of the month: Osprey

My Magazine 2022/01
1 min
This diurnal raptor is one of the larger birds spotted in The Gambia, with an average size from 52 to 61 cm tall. It has long and narrow wings which can measure from 145 to 173 when spread. Wingbeats are shallow yet powerful and alternated with long glides.

Female and male birds look almost the same, having white underparts and dark upperparts. Females usually have more prominent pale brown streaks on the upper breast. Both have a well recognizable white head with a broad brown stripe through the yellow eyes. From below, when in flight, one can see a line of black coverts leading from the centre of the wing and black carpal patches that contrast grey, light brown and white underwing coverts.

Photo Credit: Mark Goddard

Juveniles are lighter in colour, usually with more yellowish-beige narrow fringed upperpart feathers. At 18 months of age, the bird acquires adult plumage.

Being the only representative of the family Pandionidaye or Osprays in The Gambia, Osprey is a non-breeding Palearctic visitor, which can mostly be spotted from October to April (in the dry season). Still, some immatures can also be spotted during the rainy season. It would breed in Europe, North Africa, and Asia and spend the boreal winter in sub-Saharan Africa.

Photo Credit: Mark Goddard

Its only catch is fish, giving a chance to be easily spotted at large rivers, lagoons and lakes. It preys on prominent vantage points before plunge-diving for its catch. Its main range is at the coastal area and up the river; sparse occurrences are plausible all the way up to the river Gambia spring.

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Photo Credits: Mark Goddard

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