Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)
Photo: Marquis Walsh
NH Conservation Status: Not listed
Federal Status: Not listed
Osprey are protected in NH under the US Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Possession and take (which includes harming, harassing, injuring and killing) is illegal.
Distribution: Statewide but scarce in southwestern NH
Description: 4.5'-6' wingspan. Adults weigh 2.5-4 lbs. Osprey have a white breast and white belly with a dark brown back and wings. Osprey heads are white with a dark eye mask that runs from their black beak to the back of their head and down the nape of their neck. Osprey eyes are yellow and legs and feet are gray.
Commonly Confused Species: Bald eagle
Habitat: Breeding occurs within 1-2 miles of rivers, lakes, estuaries and other bodies of water with fish. Large nests are built out of sticks on dead trees and on man-made structures like utility poles, platforms, and bridges. They winter in the Caribbean and tropical portions of South America.
Life History: Osprey arrive in NH during April to breed and raise their young. Females lay 2-4 eggs and do most of the incubating for about 30 days while the male provides food. Young osprey are able to fly after about 8 weeks but remain dependent on their parents until the fall. They eat almost entirely fish which they catch by diving feet-first into the water at speeds up to 80 mph. During late summer or early fall, osprey migrate south for the winter where the young will stay for 2 years before returning north.
For more information:
- For more details about ospreys in NH, click to download the BIRDS chapter from the NH Wildlife Action Plan (PDF - 5.7 MB)
- Project Osprey