HomeOutdoorsViralOsprey defies gravity, pulls pompano from ocean in wild footage

Osprey defies gravity, pulls pompano from ocean in wild footage

by Jon D. B.
osprey hunting in water
Osprey dives into the water while hunting fish. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

“This might be one for the record books,” says wildlife videographer Mark Smith of his capture as it perfectly illustrates the power of the osprey.

As Smith notes, “This bird gets pulled under 3 times but manages to get out of the water with a massive pompano in tow.” Osprey are, after all, one of the most remarkable birds of prey.

Smith’s footage catches us up with the avian hunter on that last of three dunks. Completely submerged, this larger raptor uses the relatively immense power of its wings to literally push itself up and out of the salty ocean directly into flight. It is absolutely wild to behold:

Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) are also called fish hawks or sea hawks, both fitting titles. They are true hawks, but are remarkably unique among this raptor family’s living species.

Hunting seashores, rivers, and any body of water they can access across nearly all of North America, the osprey use their keen yellow eyes to spot fish where they live. Once locked onto a target, they dive feet-first with their talons outstretched. The hunt is complete once they slam their talons through water and lodge them into the body of their prey.

This is no mean feat when a pompano is the meal of choice, either.

Osprey vs Pompano: The Stats

Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)Florida Pompano (Trachinotus carolinus)
Weight: 3 lbs.Weight: 2-9 lbs.
Wingspan: 5.5 feetLength: 16-26 in.

While osprey hold an impressive wingspan of 5.5 feet, they max out at about 3 pounds. This disparity is typical in raptors (and all birds), though, as they require light bodies for flight. This is achieved through hollow bones, and the lack of bone weight is made up for in dense, powerful musculature.

Florida pompano illustration
The Pompano, Trachinotus carolinis, Harris, William C. (William Charles), 1830-1905, (Author), Petrie, J. L. (Artist) (Photo by: Sepia Times/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Florida pompano (Trachinotus carolinus) like the one caught by this hunter typically weigh around 3 pounds, too. But some can weigh 8 to 9 pounds and reach lengths up to 26 inches.

Add this to the dense weight of being completely submerged in saltwater, and this osprey pulling several times her own bodyweight to surface with a meal in tow.

Such a feat comes with risks. While photographing osprey myself in the Florida gulf some years back, I watched as one took to the water in similar fashion to Mark Smith‘s footage. She struggled for a few minutes with her catch, but never resurfaced.

This is common, unfortunately, as their needle-pointed talons can sometimes be too effective. If they become lodged inside a fish that’s willing to fight to the death, then the ocean claims the hunter.

In kind, Smith’s osprey bout really is one for the record books. It currently sits at over 9 million views and almost 500k likes on Instagram. Well deserved viewership!