What’s on the menu? Osprey diets at Loch of the Lowes

Ospreys are a species of raptor that you may have heard being referred to by nicknames such as ‘sea hawks’ or ‘river hawks’, and this is not without reason. They differ from other species of raptor, as instead of preying on rodents, small species of birds, reptiles, or scavenging carrion. Ospreys are piscivorous – meaning that their diet is almost entirely comprised of fish!

LM12 pictured landing on the nest, carrying a salmon
LM12 delivers the first meal of the season (a salmon) to the nest. © Loch of the Lowes Osprey Webcam

Our resident ospreys, LM12 (male) and NC0 (female), here at Loch of the Lowes have had a bountiful start to their breeding season – having been reported dining on nine different species of fish!

Some popular catches:

Brown trout (Salmo trutta) – Brown trout are a freshwater species of fish that feed on small invertebrates as well as other smaller fish. Although it is often thought that sea trout and brown trout are the same species, brown trout spend their entire lives in freshwater, whereas sea trout – as is implied by their name – are a migratory species that return to the freshwater for breeding, but otherwise spend their whole lives at sea.

Salmon (Salmo salar) – One of the largest fish on the menu for NC0 and LM12. An iconic and well-known fish, Atlantic salmon spend most of their lives at sea before returning to spawn at the same freshwater body they were born in, and are distinguishable from brown trout by their smaller, more pigmented dark spots, and larger size (reaching up to 1m in length). The salmon being brought to the nest at Lowes are believed to have been carried from the River Tay.

Perch (Perca fluviatilis) – A smaller species but nonetheless popular with our ospreys, who have feasted on this fish numerous times over the season. They are easily identified by thick, dark stripes down their flanks, accompanied by a large spiny dorsal fin, a red tail, and red pectoral and rear fins.

Pike (Esox lucius) – A successful predator in the loch, pike are skilled ambush hunters that feed on other fish and have even been known to snaffle a duck or two! However, when faced against the aerial attacks of an osprey, there is only one clear winner. Ospreys use their talons and enormous wingspan to lift these colossal freshwater predators from the loch and carry them away for a very big dinner. Some catches are even so large that the osprey cannot finish it, and instead they simply drop it once they are done feeding – uneaten fish are not kept in the nest as they prefer to keep the nest cup clean.

LM12 pictured landing on the nest with a perch grasped in his talons
LM12 bringing a perch to the nest. The olive-green skin is visible as well as a noticeable red tint to the tail and pectoral fins © Loch of the Lowes Osprey Webcam
A close up of NC0 subduing a perch in the nest.
NC0 holds a fresh perch in place before digging in to feed herself © Scottish Wildlife Trust Webcam

Seasonal fishing:

Some of the fish that are preyed upon by the ospreys are only seasonal visitors: saltwater fish that migrate to freshwater habitats inland to spawn. The largest migratory fish found being caught by our ospreys is the Atlantic salmon, which appears in surrounding water systems from around  February to October. Another migratory visitor is the sea trout, arriving later in the year from April onwards. Like the salmon, sea trout migrate to spawn over the summer months in the same waters in which they were born.

The demand for fish from LM12 has increased rapidly since the arrival of now three gorgeous chicks! Their diet of protein-rich fish is essential to the chicks’ growth and survival, Thankfully, LM12 has been doing an incredible job of providing fish to the nest – his record so far is nine fish to the nest in one day, what a great dad!!

Keep up to date with our resident ospreys, LM12 and NC0, and their chicks by watching the webcam here. Follow us on Twitter or Facebook for regular updates. 

Charlotte Needham 

Species Protection Officer 

The Trust’s Osprey Protection Programme at Loch of the Lowes is supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery. 

Help protect Scotland’s wildlife

Our work to save Scotland’s wildlife is made possible thanks to the generosity of our members and supporters.

Join today from just £3 a month to help protect the species you love.

Join today


Ospreys are a species of raptor that you may have heard being referred to by nicknames such as ‘sea hawks’ or ‘river hawks’, and this is not without reason. They …

Posted in

Blogs -

Stay up to date with the Scottish Wildlife Trust by subscribing to our mailing list Subscribe now

Back to top