Osprey or Sea Eagle?
The Osprey and Sea Eagle can both be seen at Ocean Beach. The Osprey is more often encountered; hunting for the next meal, devouring a mullet in a favoured casuarina by Prawn Rock Channel or bathing in the Inlet. The White-bellied Sea Eagle is more likely to be seen soaring on outstretched wings, high in the sky, on the lookout for either fish or fowl.
The adult Sea Eagle is a large, broad-winged bird with a silver-grey back and upper wings. It is white from below with dark primary and secondary wing feathers when seen in flight.
The Osprey does look like a small eagle, but is more closely related to hawks. It is dark brown above and largely white below, the female has a speckled brown breast (juveniles even more so), whereas the smaller male is almost pure white below. They have distinctive, piercing yellow eyes and a dark eye-stripe.
The Osprey is highly adapted for catching its almost exclusive diet of fish. It hunts from the air and on spotting its prey, dives headlong towards it and just prior to entering the water, thrusts its talons in front of its head. The scaly feet and talons grasp and crush the fish, by which time the bird is often submerged, as it recoils in the water, it beats its highly flexible wings in a circular motion to escape with its prey. It then carries the fish pointing head first to a favourite perch, where it tears it apart with its long pointed bill and devours it from head to tail, often taking an hour or more to consume a large mullet.
By comparison the Sea Eagle barely exerts itself when it hunts for fish, which have to be relatively close to the surface. As it approaches it drops its open talons into the water and as they touch the fish they close and grasp it and it is plucked from the water under the tail. Its legs then swing forward and it carries-off its prey, like the Osprey, torpedo fashion to be consumed.