Nearly absent from much of Michigan due to the effects of DDT, other pesticides and habitat loss, Michigan’s osprey population continues to rebound. In southeast Michigan, monitoring efforts are tracking the revitalization of this species.
Each year in southeast Michigan, the Department of Natural Resources bands young osprey chicks. At about four to five weeks of age and before they can fly, osprey chicks are given two bands on their legs – one colorful band, denoting the year the chick hatched, and a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service band, usually silver and bearing a serial number specific to that bird. These bands are placed on young birds so that scientists can monitor and track the dispersal, migration, life span, reproductive success, behavior and population growth of the ospreys.
So far this month, more than a dozen young ospreys have been banded at Pointe Mouillee State Game Area, Erie State Game Area and Kensington Metropark. Several other osprey chicks from area nests will be banded before the chicks fledge, or develop the feathers necessary for flying, in mid-July.
In 1998, the DNR began to relocate ospreys to southern Michigan. The program, supported by donations to Michigan’s Nongame Wildlife Fund, removed chicks from active nests in northern Michigan and reared them in man-made towers in southern Michigan, a process called “hacking.” Relocation efforts occurred over a span of 10 years. In recent years, the DNR, along with volunteers from Michigan Osprey, have identified over 50 active nests in southern Michigan – a substantial increase from the single active nest reported in 2002.
“This is a true wildlife success story,” said Julie Oakes, DNR wildlife biologist. “Each year we have new nests, and we already have exceeded our original goal of 30 active nests by 2020. We have been able to remove ospreys from the threatened species list to a species of special concern and restore their numbers in Michigan.”
In addition to being banded, several osprey chicks have been fitted with GPS units over the past three years. These GPS backpacks allow scientists to track in real time the migration and dispersal habits of young ospreys. Most osprey chicks migrate to Central or South America and spend two to three years there before returning to North America.
One of the osprey chicks outfitted with a GPS backpack in 2014 has returned to North America.
“Ozzie” was given her GPS backpack on in July 2014, in the Humphries Unit of Pointe Mouillee State Game Area. She then spent two years in Colombia and is currently venturing further north into North America. She currently is near Greenville, South Carolina.
Anyone can follow along and find out where the birds are going, and have been, just by looking at the Michigan Osprey website www.michiganosprey.org. Move the cursor along the route to see GPS coordinates and time and date information for each leg of the osprey’s journey.
Those who observe a nesting pair of ospreys in southeast Michigan are asked to contact Michigan Osprey on the web at www.michiganosprey.org.