Nature conservation

Threatened species

Eastern Osprey - profile

Indicative distribution

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The areas shown in pink and/purple are the sub-regions where the species or community is known or predicted to occur. They may not occur thoughout the sub-region but may be restricted to certain areas. ( click here to see geographic restrictions). The information presented in this map is only indicative and may contain errors and omissions.
Scientific name: Pandion cristatus
Conservation status in NSW: Vulnerable
Commonwealth status: Not listed
Profile last updated: 18 Dec 2020


The Eastern Osprey is a large, water-dependent bird of prey, distinctive in flight and when perched. Despite its wing-span of up to 1.7 m, it is noticeably smaller than the White-bellied Sea-eagle. In flight it can be recognised by its distinctly bowed wings that are dark brown above, and barred underneath, and with white underwing coverts. Perched, the upperparts are dark brown and the underparts are white. The female has a dark streaky collar. The head is mainly white with a blackish stripe through the eye.


The Osprey has a global distribution with four subspecies previously recognised throughout its range. However, recent studies have identified that there are two species of Osprey - the Western Osprey (P. halietus) with three susbpecies occurring in Europe, Asia and the Americas and the Eastern Osprey (P. cristatus) occurring between Sulawesi (in Indonesia), Australia and New Caledonia. Eastern Ospreys are found right around the Australian coast line, except for Victoria and Tasmania. They are common around the northern coast, especially on rocky shorelines, islands and reefs. The species is uncommon to rare or absent from closely settled parts of south-eastern Australia. There are a handful of records from inland areas.

Habitat and ecology

  • Favour coastal areas, especially the mouths of large rivers, lagoons and lakes.
  • Feed on fish over clear, open water.
  • Breed from July to September in NSW. Nests are made high up in dead trees or in dead crowns of live trees, usually within one kilometre of the sea. .
  • Incubation of 2-3 eggs, usually by the female, is about 40 days. Female remains with young almost until they fly, usually after about nine weeks in the nest.

Regional distribution and habitat

Click on a region below to view detailed distribution, habitat and vegetation information.


Recovery strategies

Activities to assist this species

Information sources

IBRA Bioregion IBRA Subregion Known or predicted Geographic restrictions region
Darling Riverine PlainsBogan-Macquarie Predicted None
NandewarPeel Known None
NSW North CoastCoffs Coast and Escarpment Known None
NSW North CoastDalmorton Known None
NSW North CoastGuy Fawkes Known None
NSW North CoastKaruah Manning Known None
NSW North CoastMacleay Gorges Known None
NSW North CoastMacleay Hastings Known None
NSW North CoastYuraygir Known None
OceanBatemans Shelf Known None
OceanHawkesbury Shelf Known None
OceanManning Shelf Known None
OceanSouth Pacific Ocean Predicted None
OceanTweed-Moreton Known None
OceanTwofold Shelf Known None
Ocean - Other StateNorthern Australian Coastal Waters Known None
Ocean - Other StateSouthern Australian Coastal Waters Known None
Other StateJervis Bay Territory Predicted None
Other StateQLD Known None
Other StateSA Known None
Other StateVIC Known None
South East CornerBateman Known None
South East CornerEast Gippsland Lowlands Known None
South East CornerSouth East Coastal Ranges Known None
South Eastern QueenslandBurringbar-Conondale Ranges Known None
South Eastern QueenslandClarence Lowlands Known None
South Eastern QueenslandClarence Sandstones Known None
South Eastern QueenslandScenic Rim Known None
South Eastern QueenslandSunshine Coast-Gold Coast Lowlands Known None
Sydney BasinCumberland Known None
Sydney BasinHunter Known None
Sydney BasinIllawarra Known None
Sydney BasinJervis Known None
Sydney BasinPittwater Known None
Sydney BasinSydney Cataract Known None
Sydney BasinWyong Known None
Sydney BasinYengo Known None