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Osprey Have a Good Grip on Things

photo of osprey with words: I Hold on Tight

A diet of almost exclusively live fish means manipulating slippery prey on the fly:

diagram of osprey talons
  • Flexible toes: When plunging talons first into the water, osprey can reverse their outer toe to strike with two toes in the front and two in the back—a tougher grip to escape.
  • Sharp feet: The barbed pads that line the soles of the bird’s feet add extra gripping ability.
  • Aerodynamic approach: After a catch, osprey point fish forward to reduce wind resistance.

Support for Bird the Preserves was generously provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service through Chicago Wilderness. Top photo by Paul Dacko.



Check out this short video documenting one of our annual summer rituals: osprey banding. Forest Preserves Wildlife Division staff members measure and weigh the chicks, draw blood and check them for overall signs of health. Each chick gets an aluminum band with a unique identifier. Why band? If banded ospreys are found again, we can track their migration, health and causes of mortality. Our osprey propagation program started in the late 1980s and now boasts 20 nesting platforms throughout the county.