An osprey’s diet (Pandion haliaetus) consists mainly of fish. Osprey can dive about three feet below the water’s surface, so usually search for fish by circling (or briefly hovering) over shallow bodies of water. Once prey is located the osprey dives with its feet outstretched and its eyes sighting along its talons. About one in four dives results in a successful catch.
Baum Lake (Lassen County CA) has a large population of trout in the 6″ to 13″ range – the size osprey can lift from the water and carry. Several pair of these raptors nest in the vicinity of Baum Lake and can usually be seen circling in search of a meal.
Recently I noticed an osprey sitting on a cottonwood next to Baum Lake. Other osprey were circling in search of food, yet this bird did not move. Curious, I began to watch this particular osprey. After about ten minutes I noticed the osprey tense, as if in preparation for flight, then dive from the tree into the water. Unfortunately the osprey did not surface with a fish in its talons.
As can be seen in the pictures, a nearby American pelican and great blue heron were not disturbed by the loud splash.
After the unsuccessful dive, the osprey immediately went back to his observation perch on the tree and began to wait for another fish to swim past. Unfortunately I had to leave and did not see if the osprey eventually caught a meal. This smart osprey was not wasting energy on flying in circles when he was instead able to locate fish while comfortably sitting on a branch.