Through the efforts of several organizations, ospreys continue to be successfully reintroduced in southeastern Michigan, including here in west Oakland County.
The state Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Huron-Clinton Metropolitan Authority (HCMA), Detroit Zoological Society, DTE Energy, and more than 100 volunteers have worked to help osprey populations recover in southern Michigan.
And their efforts have succeeded, as the DNR has now identified at least 49 active nests in southern Michigan, 48 more than were reported in 1999 and 36 of which are in southeast Michigan, according to the Osprey Watch of Southeast Michigan.
“This is a true wildlife success story,” said Julie Oakes, a DNR wildlife biologist. “Each year we have new nests, and we have already exceeded our original goal of 30 active nests by 2020. We have been able to remove osprey from the threatened species list and restore their numbers in Michigan.”
In the 1960s and 1970s, the osprey was one of several bird populations harmed by the use of dangerous pesticides such as DDT, which caused a thinning of the birds’ eggshells.
With the federal ban of DDT in 1972 and reproduction numbers increasing, the DNR took the opportunity to help make ospreys the common sight they once were in the Great Lakes region.
While the birds began to rebound near northern Michigan lakes and ponds, the same could not be observed in the southern part of the state. So in 1998, the DNR began relocating them to southern Michigan by a process called “hacking.”
Kensington Metropark in Milford Township was chosen as a trial site for the hacking program because of its location and natural features, according to Osprey Watch. Male osprey chicks were raised and released at Kensington between 1998 and 2002 in hopes that they would eventually return to the nesting sites and reproduce.
During that time, a total of 24 osprey chicks were released, with 23 fledged successfully. Five returned to southeast Michigan with a few continuing to nest successfully, making it the most successful of the hacking programs.
The Osprey — known as the “fish hawk” — has a brown back and white front. Since their only prey is fish, their feet are equipped with spiny scales and long talons to help them grip the slippery fish.
They usually select tall trees in marshes along streams, lakes, or man-made floodings for nesting. They will also adapt to artificial nesting towers and have been found to nest on cell phone towers. In fact, representatives of Accurate Woodworking, located on M-59 near Williams Lake Road in Waterford Township, recently reported the discovery of a pair of ospreys nesting behind the business.
In the winter ospreys typically migrate to and nest in Florida, the Caribbean, on the Gulf Coast, and in South America.
“Each year we are seeing osprey from previous years return and nest,” Oakes said. “The hard work of so many organizations is really paying off, and by continuing our extensive monitoring efforts, we will ensure that the osprey population remains strong and healthy.”
Anyone who observes a nesting pair of ospreys is asked to contact the Osprey Watch of Southeast Michigan at www.owsem.org or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.