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The osprey employs several methods of hunting depending on prevailing conditions. An individual may hunt from a perch or the air. It will survey the area, using its visual acuity to scan the water below. Once a particular fish is selected, the bird will dive nearly vertically and plunge into the water. It will grab the fish underwater with its talons and immediately fly off to a nearby perch to eat. Osprey feathers are coated with oil during preening, so the water rolls right off and the bird can take off with ease. If it sees a weak fish floating near the surface, it may hunt by approaching from a long gentle glide, plucking the fish effortlessly from the water. Both osprey and bald eagles commonly use this drier, more graceful strategy. Ospreys' hunting success rate is quite high and has been reported to range from 50% to 80% for adults. Of course, the youngsters are going to have a tougher time and thus a lower success rate.

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