Osprey perched in tree near Lockwood Park, Truckee River, 2014. Photo: Kelsey McCutcheon.

Pandion haliaetus
  • Large bird of prey, up to 5.3 foot wingspan.
  • Dark brown body, white chest.
  • White head with dark brown eye stripe.
  • Dives feet-first to catch fish.

Record Observations
Species Description:

Osprey are common along the Truckee River and nearby lakes and reservoirs during the summer breeding season (see eBird database).  Look for Osprey perched in the branches of tall trees overlooking the water.  During winter, Osprey from the Truckee River region may migrate to the California Coast, or travel as far as Central or South America (see Map from Cornell Lab of Ornithology). Osprey could be confused with Bald Eagles, but Bald Eagles have dark-brown chests and white heads without an eye-stripe.

Osprey feed almost entirely on fish, diving feet-first into the water to catch prey.  Their feet have reversible outer toes, each outfitted with tiny spikes to help the Osprey keep a tight hold on slippery fish.  After capturing a fish, Osprey fly with the fish pointed head-forward (reducing drag) to favorite perch trees, where they eat (Beedy & Pandolfino 2013).

Osprey always nest near water, and place their nests at the top of tall trees, cliffs or artificial nesting platforms.  They often return to the same nest year after year, adding to it and making repairs until it grows into a massive structure.  Some of the largest osprey nests on record have reached over six feet wide and twelve feet deep (Beedy & Pandolfino 2013).  Males typically bring sticks and material to the nest, and females arrange it and add grasses and softer material (Poole et al. 2002).  The Atlas of Breeding Birds of Nevada (2007) reports that most of our local Osprey are wanderers and non-breeding residents, but a few have been documented breeding in Western Nevada and around Lake Tahoe.  If you find a nest, be sure to submit an observation!
Just for fun (and extremely addicting): Here is a webcam showing live footage from an osprey nest in Maine, via Explore.org.

Photos & Information needed!

Do you have information on Osprey, or original photographs of Osprey taken from along the Truckee River?  If so, please contribute photos and observations here, or email information to kelseymccutcheon@gmail.com. Thanks!



Beedy, Edward C. and Pandolfino, Edward R. 2013. Birds of the Sierra Nevada. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Floyd, Ted; Elphic, Chris; Chisholm, Grant; Mack, Kevin; Elston, Robert; Ammon, Elisabeth; and John Boone.  2007. Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Nevada.  Reno: University of Nevada Press.

Poole, Alan F., Rob O. Bierregaard and Mark S. Martell. 2002. Osprey (Pandion haliaetus), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Available: http://0-bna.birds.cornell.edu.innopac.library.unr.edu/bna/species/683


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