Michigan tracks ospreys with backpack devices
Lansing — Scientists in southern Michigan are outfitting ospreys with tiny backpack satellites to study the revitalization of the species.
Ospreys are continuing to rebound in Michigan after pesticides and habitat loss threatened their existence.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources said Wednesday that six osprey chicks have been outfitted with the tracking devices that sit on their backs. Wildlife biologists will track the birds’ daily movements and seasonal migration patterns.
“We are very excited to have this opportunity to place GPS units on several ospreys this year,” said Julie Oakes, a wildlife biologist at the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. “This will provide the DNR with not only information on what migration routes the birds take, but also insight into what perils they must endure on their migration.”
The three chicks given backpacks last year made it to Miami, Cuba and Colombia before dying. The department said about 60 percent of osprey chicks don’t make it to their second birthday. The young birds face hazards including great horned owls, illegal hunting in Central and South America, weather and collisions with structures.
The backpacks were funded by grants from DTE Energy, Huron Valley Audubon, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services, American Tower Corporation and photographer Lou Waldock.
The state’s Department of Natural Resources began relocating ospreys to southern Michigan in 1998. Since then, the department has formed partnerships with various groups throughout the state, including cellphone companies that have towers, to help protect the birds.
“This is a true wildlife success story,” Oakes said. “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 ospreys from the threatened species list to a species of special concern, which means their population is much more secure now.”
Anyone can follow the six osprey chicks along their migration on the Osprey Watch of Southeast Michigan website.