Climate Change

Species on the Move: Osprey

About This Species

Ospreys are a class of raptor all their own, thanks to their diet of almost entirely fish. The birds are distributed across the globe, though are only found near water— fresh or salt—where they can feed on fish. When they hunt, Ospreys circle high above the water, looking for prey near the surface. When they spot a fish, they plunge feet-first, grabbing the fish and flying away. Female Ospreys are about 25 percent larger than males. Some Ospreys have taken up permanent residence in southern Florida, but typically they are migratory, making solo journeys that follow rivers, lakeshores, coastlines and mountain ridges.

Conservation Status

The widespread use of pesticides contributed to a precipitous loss of Ospreys in the mid-20th century, leaving the species seriously endangered. When DDT and related pesticides were banned in 1972, the population rebounded. Now the birds face a new threat from climate change, and it’s unknown what that will mean for the future.

Looking Forward

Ospreys are projected to lose 79 percent of their current summer range by 2080. Audubon’s climate model projects the birds will move further north as temperatures climb. There is potential for some to live year-round in places like Florida, but there are some significant unknowns—like whether there is enough food in its new range or how sea level rise will impact its ability to hunt in coastal areas.

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