The Italian Almanac

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osprey

Italian News - May 9

Five chicks that are being flown into Italy next month have only just hatched but they are already carrying a weighty responsibility. The birds will have the job of restoring the country s osprey population, which disappeared over 40 years ago. The osprey chicks will make their first flight by helicopter, as the trip from Corsica to Tuscany's Maremma Regional Park would be too much for them at their tender age.

Alessandro Troisi, a member of the International Osprey Foundation, said the project to rebuild the Italian osprey population was similar to ones that had been successful in other parts of Europe. "The osprey is one of the most elegant and specialized birds of prey. It disappeared from Italy at the end of the 1960s because of human disturbance and destruction of its habitats," he noted.

The immigrating chicks will spend their first two months in a large cage next to the mouth of the River Ombrone, where they can get accustomed to their new home. Then they will be set free to hunt on their own. The hope is that they will eventually nest and breed.

The osprey, which is also called the fishhawk, seahawk and the fish eagle, only eats fish. It locates its prey from the air, hovering before plunging feet-first into the water to seize a fish. The bird's body is extremely well adapted to its hunting requirements. It has closable nostrils to keep out water during dives and backward-facing scales on the talons which act as barbs to help catch fish.