Osprey In The Desert?

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I was driving on a farm road about 30 miles from Tucson the other day when I noticed a very large raptor sitting on a utility pole.  This bird was much bigger than a Red-tailed Hawk and didn’t look at all like a Red Tail.  I stopped my car for a closer look and did a double take.  The bird was an Osprey.


Ospreys, sometimes known colloquially as “fish hawks,” inhabit much of the world’s northern hemisphere.  They live almost exclusively on fish and they are associated with both fresh and saltwater bodies of water.  There is a small residential population of these birds on a few of Arizona’s lakes, but this bird was dozens of miles from the nearest lake, in the middle of what most people would say without hesitation was a burning desert.  What on earth was it doing there?

Ospreys migrate.  Each year birds living in the northern United States make their way down to warmer climates in autumn and winter, where they take up residence on local bodies of water.  It’s a pretty safe bet that this Osprey was in the process of migrating south, possibly headed for the Gulf of California (Sea of Cortez), a body of water that is located just a couple of hundred miles southwest of Tucson.   However, although the explanation for this bird’s appearance in the middle of the desert is logical, its presence so far from its natural habitat was nonetheless startling.

Images made with a Canon 5Diii, 100-400mm f4-5.6 ISII zoom lens+1.4X Telextender, aperture priority setting, ISO 640, f8 @ 1/2000.

One response to “Osprey In The Desert?”

  1. Linda says :

    Come to Coeur d alene. Osprey are everywhere.

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