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Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)

Ospreys in Hacking Box

The "fish hawk" is brown above and white below, and files with a distinct bend in its wing at the "wrist." Their feet are equipped with spiny scales and long talons that give them a firm grip on slippery fish, their only prey. Ospreys usually select tall trees in marshes along streams, lakes or man made floodings. They will adapt to artificial nesting platforms. This "help" from humans, along with the restriction of certain harmful pesticides, has helped ospreys recover from the drastic population reductions seen in the 1950s and '60s. The Nongame Wildlife Fund located 166 pairs in 1988, up from the 81 counted in 1975. Heavy use of pesticides on its winter range in Central and South America still threaten the osprey.

Osprey Approaching Nest

The Department of Natural Resources requests help from wildlife observers to report any sightings of osprey in southern Michigan, particularly in the Maple River area (north of St. Johns,) and in southeast Michigan (Oakland, Wayne, Macomb and Livingston counties.) For the past several years, the Nongame Wildlife Fund has supported the transfer of osprey chicks from the northern Lower Peninsula to southern Michigan. Chicks are reared in "hacking" towers until they are ready to fly and feed on their own. After fledging, the young ospreys migrate to South America to winter. In early April of their second or third year, osprey often return to nest in the area where they learned to fly. It is anticipated that these released birds will form the core of a successful population in southern Michigan, eventually expanding their range along rivers and other floodings. To date, 50 osprey have been released through this program.

Osprey Tracking Map

In addition to banding in the summer of 2013, six osprey chicks from area nests have been outfitted with “backpack” satellite telemetry units.  These units were funded by DTE Energy, American Tower Corporation, Huron Valley Audubon Society and Lou Waldock, and will help scientists track the young birds’ daily movement and seasonal migration patterns.

“We are very excited to have had this opportunity to place GPS units on several osprey this year,” said Julie Oakes, DNR wildlife biologist.  “This will provide the DNR with not only information on what the migration routes the birds take, but also give us insight into what perils they must endure on their migration.”

The exciting part is that anyone can follow along and find out where the birds are at any time just by looking at the website of Osprey Watch of Southeast Michigan. The DNR is hoping schools will use this website for educating youth and bringing wildlife into the classroom. 

screen shot of osprey tracking site