Osprey Vs. Eagle – Key Differences

I remember growing up with my Dad, and I’ll see an Eagle in the sky and yell, “Dad, an Eagle!.” He would then look at me, smile, and say, “No, son, that is an Osprey.” It always caused me to wonder why Ospreys and Eagles seemed so similar. So, as I became a better bird watcher, I made it a resolution to find out what the differences between these two birds are. 

The Eagle is undoubtedly an impressive bird; some may even term them the king of the skies. But the Osprey is also a very impressive bird. So, what are the differences between these two remarkable birds when they come head to head? 

Osprey Vs. Eagle: What are The Key Differences? 

Osprey and Eagle
L-Osprey; R-Eagle

I will tell you for free that the best way to differentiate between an Osprey and Eagle is by looking at their size. The Eagle is bigger than the Osprey. There are many species of eagles, and they all tend to be bigger than an Osprey. 

The Eagle also has a wider wingspan than the Osprey. Don’t get me wrong, the Osprey is a powerful bird of prey, but it pales in comparison when it comes next to the Eagle. The Eagle also has a unique feather coloration that differentiates it from the Osprey. 

In my journey as an amateur bird watcher, I’ve learned that Ospreys have a white head. They also have a brown stripe that goes through the middle of their head and around their eyes. This feature makes it very easy to differentiate between an Osprey and Eagle. Now that you know the basics, I’ll discuss more details in the next paragraph. 

Size Difference Between an Osprey and Eagle 

An Eagle is more giant than an Osprey. An Eagle weighs about 15.4 lbs in their biggest weight. And they stand inches tall. Ospreys grow to be 4.5 lbs, standing at 33 inches tall. 

Eagles possess strong wings and muscular thighs. This makes them able to fly high and long distances. Ospreys don’t have such an impressive sculpture when compared to the Eagle. 

Even though Ospreys are small birds, it doesn’t mean they are weak. They are good at hunting, and they like to eat fish. The Osprey has sharp talons, which are turned to the back. For the Osprey, the two toes are in the front, and the other two are in the back. 

The Eagle also has a talon. However, the Eagle has three toes in the front and one at the back. They use their powerful talons to grip prey. 

Wingspan Difference Between an Osprey and Eagle 

The wingspan of an Eagle is so long that it is sometimes the entire length of an Osprey. Naturally, this means that an Osprey’s wingspan is shorter than an Eagle’s. The wingspan of Osprey measures about 70 inches in length, and that of an Eagle measures about 80 inches. The wingspan of the golden eagle can be as long as 86 inches. 

Family Differences Between an Osprey and Eagle 

Even though Osprey and Eagles look alike, they are not from the same family. I know this may come as a surprise to you if you are still new to bird watching. However, they belong to the same classification, the Accipitriformes. The Osprey belongs to the Pandionidae, while the Eagle belongs to the Accipitridae family. 

The word “Eagle” refers to many large birds of prey that belong to the family Accipitridae. However, “Osprey” refers to a single fish-eating bird. 

What Are The Lifespans Of Eagle and Ospreys

Another way you can tell the difference between an Eagle and an Osprey is by looking at their lifespans. Again, the Eagle still comes out tops in terms of lifespan. The Eagle has a longer lifespan than the Osprey in the wild or captivity. 

When the Osprey is in the wild, they live for about 15-20 years. If the Osprey is living in captivity and being cared for by humans, they may have a longer lifespan. 

Eagles will live for about 15-35 years. You need to note that the lifespan of an Eagle depends on the species. They can also live for very long when they are in captivity and under the care of humans. 

Diet Differences Between Osprey and Eagle 

Eagles are quite the voracious eaters. They will eat fish, reptiles, mammals, and even carrion. If you want to read about other birds that eat carrion, you will like my Buzzards Vs. Vulture article. 

The Osprey, on the other hand, prefers to eat just fish. Their love for fish earned them the name “fish hawks.” 

Even though the Osprey would prefer to feast on fish more than anything else, they are not beyond eating snakes, frogs, and birds. So, how does the Osprey hunt? They hunt by spotting a fish as they fly and slowing down right above the fish before diving into the water to grab the fish. Yes, they do enter the water sometimes to get the fish

The Eagle does not need to get into the water to get the fish. This is because of their strong talons, which they use to grab the prey out of the water. 

Color Difference Between an Osprey and Eagle 

Osprey and Eagle
L-Osprey; R-Eagle

Bald Eagles have white tails and heads. Their legs are yellow, and they have dark-colored chests. When the bald eagle is a juvenile, the head is brown. However, when the bald eagle becomes an adult, its head becomes white. This is the color of Eagles that most people are familiar with. 

In contrast, the head of an Osprey is white. The Osprey is easily distinguishable because of the brown colored stripe which runs through the eyes. The breast feather of an Osprey is white and may spot some brown towards the top of the breast feather. 

There is no color variation in the Osprey. However, there are different color variations in species of Eagles. 

What Are The Number Of Species In Osprey and Eagle? 

The eagles have been outclassing the Osprey in every comparison. The outclassing continues even when you compare the number of species in the Eagle and Osprey. 

While the Eagle boasts about 60 recognized species worldwide, the Osprey only has four recognized subspecies. Oh, and there is at least one species of Eagle in each continent apart from Antarctica. 

Difference In Nesting Behavior Between The Eagle and Osprey 

Eagle Nest vs Osprey Nest
L-Eagle Nest; R-Osprey Nest

When it comes to nesting, the Osprey and Eagle like to use the same materials to build their nests. They will use large sticks, grasses, and corn stalks to make their nests. These birds are architectural gurus when it comes to building their nests. This is because both birds will continue building their nests yearly, which results in their nests becoming huge. 

So, what is the difference in their nesting? Well, the difference is in where they choose to build their nests. The Osprey like to build their nests in open areas. They will also position their nests close to a water source so they can easily hunt. The Osprey can also create its nest on light poles and cell phone towers. The dove is also another bird that builds its nests on artificial platforms. 

When it comes to the Eagle, trust them to build their nests in the highest tree they can find. The nest of the Eagle is cone-shaped and quite large. Eagles will hardly, if not never, build their nests on artificial structures. Proud birds, aren’t they? 

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