Osprey
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Source: Bodleian Library LUNA search: MS. Bodley 764 Copyright 2003 Oxford University Manuscript description Bodleian Library, MS. Bodley 764, Folio 59v


 

Osprey

Latin name: Haliaetus

Other names: Aurifigios, Ospreit, Ossifragus

A bird from Ireland that is well suited for fishing

 

 
General Attributes

The osprey is a bird found in Ireland. It is smaller than an eagle but larger than a hawk, and catches fish. One of its feet is has open talons for siezing prey, while the other is closed and useful only for swimming (some say its second foot is webbed). Ospreys fly high over water, hovering with gentle movements of their wings; when they see a fish below they dive into the water to catch it. Some say that fish are so mesmerised by the Osprey that they turn belly-up in surrender.

Ospreys actually have an opposable toe that can face forward or backward. While the bird is perched, it usually has three toes in front and one in back. When an Osprey catches a fish, its feet and toes are positioned with two toes on either side of the fish, one foot ahead of the other.


Allegory/Moral

The osprey is likened to Satan, who sees what we do and approaches us with a "closed talon", only to sieze us with an open one.


Sources (chronological order)

Pliny the Elder [1st century CE] (Natural History, Book 10, 3): (Calling the osprey the sixth kind of eagle) "There remains the osprey, which has very keen eyesight, and which hovers at a great height and when it sees a fish in the sea drops on it with a swoop and cleaving the water with its breast catches it." The name Ossifragus or ossifrage is sometimes applied to the osprey in manuscripts, probably due to a confusion with the sea-eagle; Pliny's notes on the osprey and the sea-eagle are in the same section of the Natural History.


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