Ospreys are fascinating raptors to watch that hunt fish, snakes, and frogs. Inviting them to your yard is a great way to find a unique and thrilling bird-watching experience.
How do you attract an osprey?
To attract Ospreys to your yard, provide a tall nesting location within 1,600 feet of a water source and ensure that the yard is open, quiet, and free from pesticides. Ospreys are attracted to tall trees where they can perch, and they will make use of artificial nesting boxes if you provide one.
Where Ospreys Live
Ospreys live near bodies of water where they can hunt for fish, most often lakes and oceans, but also rivers, salt marshes, ponds, reservoirs, and coral reefs.
Ospreys live on every continent except Antarctica. Within North America, Ospreys live across Canada, Alaska, the Pacific Northwest, and along the Atlantic coastline.
Some Ospreys migrate towards the south during the wintertime. Osprey populations are especially large along the coasts of Central America and Mexico during the winter months.
Ospreys are large hawks with narrow wings, dark brown on their back and wings and white on their undersides.
Their heads are white with a brown crown and streaks down the cheek, and their eyes are a fierce yellow with black rings around them.
Young Ospreys look similar to the adults but with a more speckled appearance.
Ospreys are about 22 inches long, the size of a large goose. Their wingspan is 59 to 70 inches wide, smaller than that of a Bald Eagle but wider than that of a Red-Tailed Hawk.
Ospreys can be identified by the M-shape that their wings make when seen from below.
You can also identify an Osprey by the sound that it makes: a high-pitched, clear whistle that sounds like “tyou-tyou-tyou-tyou.”
You can also expect to hear piercing screams when an Osprey is disturbed or frightened.
How to Attract Ospreys
Ospreys are much more common in recent years than they were 40 years ago.
This is because of a government ban on the use of DDT, a harmful pesticide that had decreased the size of Osprey populations.
The ban makes it much more possible to attract Ospreys to your yard than it would have been in years past.
Encouraging Ospreys to Nest in Your Yard
Ospreys like quiet environments, so you’re more likely to have success attracting them to your yard if there’s not a lot of activity nearby.
They also like to live near prey, and because Ospreys eat mostly fish, you’re more likely to see them in your yard if you live near a water source.
Specifically, it’s good to be within 1,600 feet of a water source.
Ospreys also like environments with lots of natural foliage for them to conceal themselves in.
The less your lawn is sculpted and manicured, the more likely it is that hawks will feel at home there.
Ospreys build their nests at a high vantage point on top of sturdy objects like treetops or snags.
Ospreys can also be found nesting in artificial structures, whether it be a utility pole or a duck blind.
To encourage Ospreys to nest in your yard, you can build an artificial nesting platform.
As long as the environment isn’t too loud and there’s plenty of food nearby, Ospreys don’t mind human activity or other Ospreys near their nests.
Just make sure that there’s plenty of room for everyone to nest.
To build a nesting platform for Ospreys, follow these steps:
- Talk to local conservation organizations, bird clubs, and parks department representatives about your idea, as they may provide support for the build.
- Choose a location at least fifteen feet over the surface of water and at least twenty feet high. It should be taller than any surrounding trees.
- If your platform isn’t going to be placed directly over water, it should be within at least 1,600 feet of a water source.
- Make sure that your platform is higher than any problematic potential nesting sites, like power lines.
- Once you’ve chosen a site that meets all these criteria, follow the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s downloadable construction plan to build the nest box.
Is It Safe to Attract Ospreys to Your Yard?
It is generally safe to attract ospreys to your yard, as these raptors mostly eat fish, snakes, and frogs.
However, other raptors, such as hawks, are not always safe to attract, as they can pose a threat to small animals that live near your home, including household pets.
Hawks are important in balancing backyard ecosystems because they eat animals that could otherwise overpopulate an area or become pests, like snakes, rats, and gophers.
However, they can also eat beneficial species or reduce populations too much.
Raptors will at least scare away and often eat songbirds, so be aware that inviting a raptor to your yard will put them at risk.
Attracting Other Raptors to Your Yard
Attracting raptors to your yard is a matter of providing adequate food, water, and nesting habitat.
The most common raptors to find in suburban and urban areas are small hawks like these:
- Sharp-Shinned Hawk
- Red-Tailed Hawk
- Cooper’s Hawk
- Red-Shouldered Hawk
- Broad-Winged Hawk
- Western Screech Owl
- Barred Owl
- Great Horned Owl
- Eastern Screech Owl
Many of these hawks feed on songbirds, so placing a bird feeder in your yard is a good way to attract them indirectly.
Many hawks also feed on rodents and insects, so attracting these kinds of prey will also attract hawks.
However, you should not feed hawks captive rodents, birds, or insects; it’s always better to allow hawks to feed on real wildlife.
Because hawks drink the blood of their prey, they don’t need as much water nearby for drinking; however, they do appreciate water to bathe in during hot weather.
Keeping a large birdbath for hawks is a good way to keep them happy in your yard.
A hawk bath should be bigger than what you’d use for songbirds, made of concrete, and built into the ground with a deep bowl.
If you have a tree in your yard, you’ll be more likely to attract hawks. Hawks use trees as a place to perch and watch for prey and as a place to nest.
You can also provide hawks with suitable habitat if you have something high like a fence or roof to perch on and a nesting box for them to roost in.
Keeping Ospreys and Other Raptors Safe in Your Yard
Ospreys and other raptors are apex predators, meaning that they don’t have any natural predators.
However, they can be poisoned by pesticides or rat poison if their food becomes tainted with these chemicals.
You should avoid hiring an exterminator to get rid of rats on your property for this reason, and for the reason that rats provide a good food source for hawks.
You should also avoid disturbing the hawk after eating, even though hawks aren’t used to having predators. They are sensitive to disruptions, especially right after a meal.
Attracting Ospreys to your yard is a matter of providing enough food, water, shelter, and nesting habitat.
Ospreys feed on fish and other water animals, so they need to live somewhere near a water source.
They like to perch and nest up high in trees or artificial perches like nesting boxes or roofs. Provide all of these things, and you’re more likely to see Ospreys nearby.