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The osprey population in Scotland is on the up, and the bird is now increasing its range southwards. This has not always been the case; because of persecution by egg collectors and taxidermists it all but died out.
The osprey is exceptional among birds of prey in that it has adapted to live almost exclusively on fish. Although it weighs only around 1.5 kilograms, it is powerful enough to lift itself out of the water while carrying fish weighing up to 2 kilograms. It has acute binocular vision, allowing it to spot its prey swimming near the surface from up to 70 metres above the water.
It is perhaps the recognition of these incredible abilities that have informed cultural depictions of the osprey in mythology and literature. Shakespeare describes the osprey as having the ‘sovereignty of nature’ and it was a medieval belief that fish were so mesmerised by the bird that they simply turned belly-up in surrender.