Osprey

A long winged fishing bird of prey with a distinctive reverse W-shaped outline. The osprey has light underparts and dark patches midway up the wings. Both males and females look the same, but the latter are larger. Once they have paired up and the female is incubating, the male will range out to fish in rivers and lochs for the female. When the young have hatched the male is commonly seen carrying large fish back to the nest to feed them.

The birds arrive from North Africa in April; leave Scotland in August - early September. In spring and autumn birds of passage will be seen at altitude. Found on many waterside sites throughout the Highlands during the summer. The large untidy nest is usually high in an open structured tree with a nearby perch for the returning male. Males hold the nest territory and at the end of the summer, the female leaves the male to complete the rearing of the surviving juveniles. He then in turn leaves the chicks to complete their own migration alone.

This is a protected species and people are encouraged to go to see regulated nest sites, where there are viewing facilities such as hides and remote camera viewing. For instance, in Perthshire, the Scottish Wildlife Trust site at Loch of the Lowes and in Speyside at the Rothiemurchus Estate.

Males carry the fish they catch back to the nest, aligned “head first” in their large curved talons. This means that they are aerodynamically efficient.

Ospreys are summer visitors to Scotland, spending their winters in west Africa. Unlike other raptors, they feed exclusively on fish, both marine and freshwater and have specially adapted nasal valves which close when the bird in underwater. These birds travel south to Africa for the winter and can live for up to 40 years.

Common buzzard

Common buzzard

Buteo buteo

The buzzard is the most common bird of prey in UK. Its large size (wingspan of over a metre) distinguishes it from other hawks, however it is considerably smaller than an eagle, with which it is often confused. The buzzard is a slow flier and unlikely ...

Golden eagle

Golden eagle

Aquila chrysaetos

A huge bird of prey, with only the white-tailed eagle larger in the UK. With its long broad wings and longish tail, it has a different outline to the smaller buzzard. It likes to soar and glide on air currents, holding its wings in a shallow 'V'. Eagle...

Hen harrier

Hen harrier

Circus cyaneus

Of the UK's birds of prey, this is the most intensively persecuted. Once predating free-range fowl, earning its present name, its effect on the number of grouse available to shoot is the cause of modern conflict and threatens its survival in some parts...