Osprey Pandion haliaetus, Balbuzard pêcheur.

2 occurrences (1 osprey, 1 ospreys)

Once widespread in Britain, the osprey was destroyed as vermin. In 1566 an Act of Parliament authorized churchwardens to raise funds to pay so much a head for corpses of foxes, weasels, polecats, stoats, otters, hedgehogs, rats, mice, moles, hawks, buzzards, ospreys, jays, ravens, even kingfishers (THOMAS, p. 274).

The ability to catch trout and produce attractive eggs led to the extermination of the species from the British Isles as a breeding bird in 1908, but it had begun to disappear much earlier on. The last documented breeding dates are 1570 on the Solent, 1678 in Lakeland, 1757 in South Devon. In 1954, a pair came back to Scotland at Loch Garten and became the most closely watched and the best known pair of birds in the world, as well as an emblem for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

Turner in his Avium Praecipuarum of 1544 remarks: The osprey is a bird much better known today to Englishmen than those who keep fish would wish (p. 32).

Traditionally the osprey was attributed a fabulous power over fish. HARTING quotes PEELE's play The Battle of Alcazar, (1594, Act I, Sc. i):

I will provide thee of a princely osprey,

That, as he flieth over fish in pools,

The fish shall turn their glistering bellies up,

And thou shalt take thy liberal choice of all.

The metaphor used by Shakespeare in Coriolanus is then one expressing great power:

I think he'll be to Rome

As is the osprey to the fish, who takes it

By sovereignty of nature.

(4 7 33-5)

The magnificent sight of the osprey hovering over a lake, over its prey is transferred to the eve of a battle whose outcome leaves no doubt.