email a friend
printable version
Osprey Pandion haliaetus

This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (extent of occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be increasing, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over 10 years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in 10 years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

Taxonomic source(s)
AERC TAC. 2003. AERC TAC Checklist of bird taxa occurring in Western Palearctic region, 15th Draft. Available at: # _the_WP15.xls#.
Cramp, S.; Perrins, C. M. 1977-1994. Handbook of the birds of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The birds of the western Palearctic. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.
SACC. 2006. A classification of the bird species of South America. Available at: #

Taxonomic note
Pandion haliaetus (Sibley and Monroe 1990, 1993; Christidis and Boles 1994) was split into P. haliaetus and P. cristatus by Christidis and Boles (2008) but this treatment is not followed by the BirdLife Taxonomic Working Group (BTWG) because the authors base their treatment on molecular analyses published by M. Wink outside the peer-reviewed literature; the BTWG adopts the view of Edwards et al. (2005) that intrageneric genetic differentiation alone is an unsatisfactory basis for species recognition and prefer to wait for further validation before accepting this proposed split.

Population justification
The European population is estimated at 8,400-12,300 pairs, which equates to 16,700-24,600 mature individuals (BirdLife International 2015). Europe forms approximately 14% of the global range, so a very preliminary estimate of the global population size is 119,000-176,000 mature individuals, although further validation of this estimate is needed. Partners in Flight Science Committee (2013) estimate the global population as 500,000 individuals which equates to 333,000 mature individuals. The population is placed in the band 100,000-499,999 mature individuals.

Trend justification
This species has undergone a large and statistically significant increase over the last 40 years in North America (1,100% increase over 40 years, equating to a 84.2% increase per decade; data from Breeding Bird Survey and/or Christmas Bird Count: Butcher and Niven 2007). Note, however, that these surveys cover less than 50% of the species's range in North America. In Europe the population size is estimated to be increasing (BirdLife International 2015).


Behaviour Individuals in the tropics and subtropics are resident, but others migrate to the lower latitudes of the Amazon Basin, South America's northern coast, or West Africa in the non-breeding season (del Hoyo et al. 1994). Migrants begin moving to lower latitudes in August and arrive by October, returning in March and April (Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001). Birds are generally solitary and usually migrate alone, but may congregate in small groups at roosts or plentiful food sources (del Hoyo et al. 1994, Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001). The species migrates on broad fronts and is not dependent on land bridges during migration (Snow and Perrins 1998, Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001); birds readily cross bodies of water using flapping flight, but can soar easily over land. It is entirely diurnal (Brown et al. 1982). Habitat It inhabits the areas around shallow waters, being sufficiently tolerant of human settlement to persist in suburban and sometimes urban environments (del Hoyo et al. 1994). Diet Almost its entire diet consists of live fish (del Hoyo et al. 1994). Breeding site Birds usually build large nests high in exposed trees (del Hoyo et al. 1994). Management information Reintroduction has helped populations to recover across parts of its range (del Hoyo et al. 1994).

Human persecution was the main historical threat, prevalent from the 18th-20th centuries (Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001). A combination of deforestation and the collection of eggs and live birds drove the species extinct in Azerbaijan (del Hoyo et al. 1994). In the U.S.A. (and to a lesser extent elsewhere), numbers fell significantly from 1950-1970 as a result of pesticide use, although they are now recovering, as they are in Scotland where the species had been extirpated by collection and hunting (del Hoyo et al. 1994, Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001). Pesticide use has now been reduced to a minor threat. However shooting still affects many birds on migration in the Mediterranean, notably in Malta, as well as wintering birds in tropical regions including Latin America and the West Indies (Global Raptor Information Network 2015). A few Australian birds are apparently impacted by local human disturbance (del Hoyo et al. 1994). It is very highly vulnerable to the effects of potential wind energy development (Strix 2012).

Related state of the world's birds case studies

BirdLife International. 2015. European Red List of Birds. Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, Luxembourg.

Butcher, G. S.; Niven, D. K. 2007. Combining data from the Christmas bird count and the breeding bird survey to determine the continental status and trends of North American birds.

Butler, C. J. 2003. The disproportionate effect of global warming on the arrival dates of short-distance migratory birds in North America. Ibis 145: 484-495.

Christidis, L. and Boles, W.E. 2008. Systematics and taxonomy of Australian birds. CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood, Australia.

Christidis, L.; Boles, W. E. 1994. The taxonomy and species of birds of Australia and its territories. Royal Australasian Ornithologists' Union, Melbourne.

del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; Sargatal, J. 1994. Handbook of the Birds of the World, vol. 2: New World Vultures to Guineafowl. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.

Edwards, S. V.; Kingan, S. B.; Calkins, J. D.; Balakrishnan, C. N.; Jennings, W. B.; Swanson, W. J.; Sorenson, M. D. 2005. Speciation in birds: Genes, geography, and sexual selection. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 102: 6550-6557.

Ferguson-Lees, J. and Christie, D.A. 2001. Raptors of the world. Christopher Helm, London.

Global Raptor Information Network. 2015. Species account: Osprey Pandion haliaetus. Available at: (Accessed: 01/07/2015).

IUCN. 2015. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015-4. Available at: (Accessed: 19 November 2015).

Partners in Flight Science Committee. 2013. Population Estimates Database, version 2013. Available at: (Accessed: 09/07/2015).

Sibley, C.G. and Monroe, B.L. 1990. Distribution and Taxonomy of Birds of the World. Yale University Press, New Haven, USA.

Sibley, C.G. and Monroe, B.L. 1993. A supplement to 'Distribution and Taxonomy of Birds of the World'. Yale University Press, New Haven, USA.

Solonen, T. 2008. Large-scale climatic phenomena and timing of breeding in a local population of the Osprey Pandion haliaetus in southern Finland. Journal of Ornithology 149: 229-235.

STRIX. 2012. Developing and testing the methodology for assessing and mapping the sensitivity of migratory birds to wind energy development. BirdLife International, Cambridge.

Further web sources of information
Detailed regional assessment and species account from the European Red List of Birds (BirdLife International, 2015)

Detailed species account from Birds in Europe: population estimates, trends and conservation status (BirdLife International 2004)

Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

Search for photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Butchart, S., Ekstrom, J., Khwaja, N. & Ashpole, J

IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2015) Species factsheet: Pandion haliaetus. Downloaded from on 30/11/2015. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2015) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 30/11/2015.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Additional resources for this species

ARKive species - Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Least Concern
Family Pandionidae (Osprey)
Species name author (Linnaeus, 1758)
Population size 100000-499999 mature individuals
Population trend Increasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 31,500,000 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species
- Projected distributions under climate change
- 2015 European Red List assessment