Osprey, By Peter Cairns, Kingussie, Scotland, UK


Pandion haliaetus

Learn more about Pandion haliaetus from the Encyclopedia of Life

Encyclopedia of Life

Kangasala, Tampere, Finland
By Peter Cairns
Kingussie, Scotland, UK

Ospreys are a major European conservation success story. The species has recovered from its endangered status and now breeds near fresh and salt waterways throughout much of the continent. During summer months, these raptors may be seen hunting over rivers, lakes, and estuaries before diving into the water— talons outstretched—to catch their prey. Their diet consists mostly of fish, but can also include snakes, frogs, and other animals. The osprey, along with wildlife-comeback stories like the crane, wolf, and bear, proves that even on our crowded continents, nature can adapt and flourish—if we just let it.

“These efficient predators are expert hunters and seize their prey with lightning speed and precision. While photographing in southern Finland on assignment for the Wild Wonders of Europe project, one of my goals was to document this behavior. After countless attempts, I was finally able to capture the moment as an adult osprey plunged into the water, creating a massive explosion of droplets. I managed this one frame that featured the drama of the fish trying to escape.” —PC

Canon EOS-1D Mark IIN; 300mm lens; 1/500 sec at ƒ/2.8; ISO 200; beanbag.

Peter Cairns

Peter Cairns has worked as a professional nature photographer since 2000 and has received top awards in many international photo competitions. A founding director of the Wild Wonders of Europe and the Wild Media Foundation, Cairns writes and illustrates columns for photography magazines. He also belongs to the International League of Conservation Photographers.