Feb 27
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ARKive’s Top Ten Osprey Facts

This osprey video is currently the most popular video on ARKive, but what is it about this bird of prey that is capturing the imagination, and how much do you know about this magnificent bird? To give you a bit more of an insight into the world of the osprey, here are our top ten osprey facts:

  1. Ospreys are almost entirely piscivorous, diving from the air to snatch fish directly from the water. The osprey’s legs (and talons) stretch forward and its wings tuck in moments before hitting the water, sometimes completely submerging itself to catch its prey.
  1. The osprey can prey on fish a third of its body weight. As its talons grip the fish, enormous wing power is needed to lift itself and its catch from the water. Once airborne again, a reversible outer toe enables the osprey to align the fish into a head-first, streamlined position underneath the body.
Osprey in flight carrying fish

Osprey in flight carrying fish

  1. Most ospreys are migratory, travelling distances of around 6,000 miles from perfect nesting sites in the north and the best fishing grounds in the south. Adults memorise landmarks from previous journeys, creating a mental map of the route. Exactly how juveniles navigate for the first time is still a bit of a mystery!
  1. The osprey is one of the most widespread birds of prey, occurring on every continent except Antarctica. Four subspecies cover this enormous range: P. haliaetus haliaetus, P. h. carolinensis, P. h. cristatus and P. h. ridgwayi.
Osprey swooping with talons ready while fishing

Osprey swooping with talons ready while fishing

  1. Extensive egg collecting and hunting meant that the osprey went extinct in the UK in 1916. The first breeding pair returned in 1954 to Scotland. Barbed wire around the nest tree trunk and 24 hour surveillance were used in an effort known as ‘Operation Osprey’ to protect the osprey pairs from poachers.
  1. Long-distance journeys are hazardous – only about half of young ospreys survive their first migration.
Osprey adult flying, about to land

Osprey adult flying, about to land

  1. The osprey has incredibly sharp eyesight. Hovering or circling over the water, the osprey is able to spot fish from heights of 30 metres, predicting size and speed of potential prey.
  1. Both the male and female osprey rear their young. The male hunts, providing food for the female and chicks in the nest, while the female usually takes charge of incubation and feeding the young.
Osprey feeding young at the nest

Osprey feeding young at the nest

  1. Although ospreys have been persecuted by fishermen, they can be used to a fisherman’s advantage – for example in Cuba, fishermen may observe where the osprey hunt to find shoals of fish.
  1. In medieval times, the osprey was believed to have the mystic ability to hypnotise fish, making the fish easy prey.

    Ospreys fighting over a nest site

    Ospreys fighting over a nest site

Let us know in the comments below if you have any other fascinating osprey facts.

Lauren Pascoe, ARKive Media Researcher

Feb 26
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The ARKive Team’s Favourite Species – Michelle Lindley

The mischievous kea won over Eleanor Sans last week, but will this week’s species be just as rebellious or slightly more reserved?

Michelle Lindley – ARKive Research Manager

Favourite species: Indri

Why? Madagascar was always on my list of places I wanted to visit and last year I was lucky enough to go. Watching Madagascar’s largest lemur, the indri, in Andasibe-Mantadia National Park was fantastic. Listening to the family groups calling to each other in the mornings was one of the best wildlife experiences. The eerie sounds they make are amazing, and watching them leap from branch to branch was unbelievable.

Favourite indri image on ARKive:

Indri image

The indri is one of the world's most threatened primates

The indri is classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List. Threats to this species include habitat fragmentation due to slash-and-burn agriculture and forests being cut down for fuel and timber. The indri is also killed for food in certain areas of Madagascar.

See more photos and videos of the indri.

Feb 25
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Endangered Species of the Week: Dawn redwood

Dawn redwood image

Dawn redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides)

Species: Dawn redwood                     (Metasequoia glyptostroboides)

Status: Critically Endangered (CR)

Interesting Fact: The dawn redwood was known only from ancient fossils, until a small population was discovered in the forests of Central China in 1944.

Considered to be one of the greatest botanical finds of the 20th century, the dawn redwood has been dubbed a ‘living fossil’. This coniferous tree grows with an orange-brown, thick, tapering trunk and a broad, buttressed base. Green in the spring and summer, the leaves of this deciduous tree turn a vibrant reddish-brown before falling to the ground in autumn. The dawn redwood is a monoecious species, meaning the male and female reproductive organs are borne on the same tree. This species is wind pollinated, and small, winged seeds then develop inside the cone, which splits when ripe, allowing wind to disperse the seeds across the landscape. In favourable habitat, the dawn redwood may grow up to 80 centimetres per year, reaching incredible heights over 40 metres, with a lifespan of over 100 years.

Existing in several fragmented, relict populations, the largest of which numbered only around 120 mature trees in 2006, the dawn redwood is one of Asia’s rarest trees. Since its discovery this species has been protected, and a number of reserves have been created to protect the remaining trees.

Find out more about the dawn redwood with Kew Royal Botanical Gardens.

View images of the dawn redwood on ARKive.

Becky Moran, ARKive Species Text Author

Feb 25
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ARKive’s Top 10 Fishing Species

While human anglers might be content to sit peacefully by the riverside for hours on end, waiting for a bite, some of the species here on ARKive are far more impatient when it comes to getting their dinner! Join us in a stroll through the animal kingdom fishing hall of fame, claws, teeth and all…

Blue shark

Blue shark image

Although often observed cruising slowly and sluggishly, the blue shark is capable of rapid movement if it is excited or feeding. This species will often circle its prey before moving in to attack, and feeds primarily upon relatively small prey, such as bony fish and squid.

Brown bear

Brown bear image

The brown bear is an opportunistic forager, and is not one to miss out on an easy meal! Brown bears make seasonal movements in response to food aggregations, such as spawning salmon, during which time large numbers of bears may gather in relatively small areas.

Brown pelican

Brown pelican image

The brown pelican is the only species of pelican to plunge dive for its fish. Sighting prey from the air, the brown pelican then plummets into the water, trapping unsuspecting fish in its expandable pouch.

Mediterranean monk seal

Mediterranean monk seal image

An important figure in the history of human civilization, the Mediterranean monk seal appeared on one of the first ever coins, around 500 BC. Today, however, this species is deliberately killed by fishermen, who perceive the species as a competitor for fish

Fishing cat

Fishing cat image

Unlike the average domestic moggy, the fishing cat isn’t afraid to get its paws wet! Largely active at night, fishing cats are good swimmers and have been observed diving for fish, as well as scooping them out of the water with their paws.

North Pacific giant octopus

North Pacific giant octopus image

There are not many that would be brave enough to take on a shark, so the North Pacific giant octopus earns its place in the Top 10 Fishing Species through sheer bravery! The North Pacific giant octopus is the largest species of octopus in the world, so sharks beware!

African clawless otter

African clawless otter image

The dexterous, hand-like forefeet of the African clawless otter are its most remarkable feature, enabling it to grapple with its prey with notable ease. Overturning rocks, churning up mud, and probing vegetation, the African clawless otter uses its hands to catch crustaceans, molluscs, frogs, fish and water tortoises.

Bottlenose dolphin

Bottlenose dolphin image

An extremely intelligent species, the bottlenose dolphin has some ingenious methods for catching fish. Working as a team, they drive shoals of fish onto the shore and beach themselves, snapping up the stranded fish before wriggling back into the water.

Dog-faced water snake

Dog-faced water snake image

Not to let the side down for the reptiles, the unusually named dog-faced water snake also has a taste for fish. This species is a strong swimmer, but often uses a sit-and-wait strategy, not too dissimilar to the average human angler.

Osprey – King of the Fishers!

Osprey image

Undoubtedly one of the most accomplished fishers, the osprey feeds almost exclusively on fish. Hovering or circling at moderate height, it plunges down feet first to snatch fish from the water’s surface, sometimes even completely submerging in the process. It may even catch more than one wriggling fish at a time!

Why not watch our most popular video, and see for yourself why the osprey is king of the fishers!

Becky Moran, ARKive Species Text Author

Feb 24
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Join ARKive’s “I’m a polar bear” campaign!

"I'm a polar bear" logo

Date for your diary

February 27th is International Polar Bear Day, a whole day dedicated to raising awareness of this super cool species. The polar bear is dependent on sea ice for its survival, but climate change is causing drastic reductions in the extent of ice cover across the Arctic region, meaning that accessing prey will become more problematic for the polar bear as time goes on.

Polar bear image

The Arctic habitat of the polar bear is under threat

 

Get involved

ARKive polar bear masks

ARKive polar bear masks

Over the next week, help ARKive to raise awareness about one of the world’s most iconic species by saying “I’m a polar bear”!

Join the ARKive team and celebrate in style by making some awesome polar bear masks, take a photo of yourself and then simply post it on the ARKive Facebook wall to show your support.

Then continue to spread the love by changing your Facebook or Twitter profile pictures and sharing your pictures with all your friends!

What else can I do?

Take part in ARKive’s Creative Climate Change Challenge! Using your wild imagination and creative skills, come up with an innovative way to inspire your friends and family to do their bit and act on climate change. Why not make the polar bear your climate change mascot, or browse ARKive’s climate change pages to discover more species affected by climate change such as the leatherback turtle or common clownfish and use them for creative inspiration.

ARKive's Creative Climate Change Challenge logo

Join Polar Bear International’s Bundle Up! campaign, which encourages everyone to turn down their thermostat by 2 degrees. The reduction of carbon footprints could help to save the habitat of the polar bear in the long term. So why not turn the heating down and grab your nearest and dearest for a big bear hug?

*Like* our polar bear page and prepare to be astounded by the amazing collection of photos, videos and facts ARKive has to offer.

Polar bear image

'I'm a polar bear'

 

Hannah Mulvany, ARKive Species Text Author Intern.

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