By EVAN KREAGER
Capital News Service
LANSING — There are at least 50 breeding osprey pairs in southern Michigan, up from a single nest some two decades ago. That’s seven years ahead of a goal to have 30 pairs in the area.
Nests are spread across counties in the southern part of the state. And the birds are on the move.
One of them named Monroe Spark recently reached Cuba.
An osprey, with its brown feathers and white chest and head, looks similar to an eagle. Ospreys are birds of prey that dine on fish, often flying along coastal areas.
For the first time in Michigan, three ospreys were fitted this past summer with transmitters to research where they migrate.
“The word is out for the birders down there to watch for him,” said Barb Jensen, a founding member of Osprey Watch of Southeast Michigan. The group is a volunteer organization whose goals are to help restore osprey to Southeast Michigan and to educate the public about the bird.
The other two tracked birds are in Florida and South America. All three ospreys are expected to return when they are 2 years old, in about 18 months. After that they will begin a yearly migration routine.
Beyond trying to determine migration routes, Jensen says tracking the birds provides a huge opportunity for educational outreach. The program follows the birds’ migration on a website that students can access.
“We see a disconnect with kids and nature. This is a way for us to keep kids engaged using devices they are familiar with,” she said.
Funding for the tracking devices, about $4,000 each, and installation of platforms for the birds to nest on in the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge came from DTE Energy and the American Tower Corp. Additional support came from the Department of Natural Resources, the Detroit Zoological Society and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
“It’s been a wonderful partnership,” said Jensen. “This was really an all-out effort.”
Monroe Spark was born in early June on an osprey platform in the refuge near Estral Beach in Monroe County. Now fully grown, he has a wingspan of 5 to 6 feet.
John Hartig, manager of the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge, says he’s thrilled to be part of this effort.
“Ospreys were gone for a long time. In the past 10 years or so they started bouncing back a little,” he said.
Evan Kreager writes for Great Lakes Echo.
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