An early sign of spring, ospreys are making their return to Michigan. The magnificent fish-hawk with striking brown and white plumage can be seen flying along shallow, fish-filled waters of the Great Lakes region — hovering, then plunging feet-first to snare fish in its talons. Ospreys can be found across the state, but they once faced an uncertain future here.
Osprey were severely affected by use of the pesticide DDT and were listed as a threatened species in Michigan after their population declined precipitously in the 1960s. Fortunately, the sale and use of DDT was banned in 1972, giving ospreys a fighting chance. Thanks to the hard work and dedication of MI Birds partners, the DNR, the Detroit Zoological Society and friends at Huron-Clinton Metroparks, the osprey was successfully reintroduced to southern Michigan and removed from the threatened species list in 2009.
However, it is incredibly important that ospreys continue to be monitored closely statewide to document the health and abundance of their populations. While this species now boasts over 200 known nest locations throughout the state, it is still listed as a Michigan species of special concern.
Volunteer community scientists like you can help us understand how ospreys are rebounding across the state. All ages and experience levels are invited to participate in the Adopt-A-Nest monitoring program, and it’s easy to do. A minimum commitment of three nest visits between May 15 and Aug. 1, lasting at least 15 minutes each, is all it takes to determine 1) if there is a nesting attempt, 2) if birds are actively nesting and 3) if there are any chicks in the nest. You can visit your nest more often if you’d like!
Binoculars are adequate for most observations, but a spotting scope is useful for determining the number of chicks. Most nests are located on cellular towers and are easily viewed from public roads.
Fill out this sign-up form to adopt an osprey nest.
MI Birds is a public outreach and education program created by Audubon Great Lakes and the DNR, aimed at increasing all Michiganders’ engagement in the understanding, care and stewardship of public lands that are important for birds and local communities.
Questions? Contact Emily Osborne at 414-841-5273.