The Osprey Reintroduction Program of Southern Michigan
Hacking Tower at Kensington MetroPark, April 2003
What is Osprey hacking?
Hacking is a procedure developed by falconers hundreds of years ago. Falconry is the art of training birds of prey to hunt in cooperation with a person. By raising young raptors in artificial aeries (nests), feeding them before and after fledging, and controlling their release, falconers discovered that the birds were easier to train.
The technique was adopted for use in reintroduction programs, because it is an effective way to raise and release birds, particularly raptors, in to the wild. With slight variations, the method works quite well for many species, including Ospreys.
A summary of the MDNR Hacking Program and its results has been written. Click here to view the PDF version of that document.
Why are Ospreys being hacked in Michigan?
Ospreys were once found throughout the state of Michigan, primarily in northern regions But loss of wetland habitat, persecution, and the heavy use of the pesticide DDT after World War II and into the 1960s decimated Osprey populations. This occurred throughout North America and Europe, not just in Michigan. By the late 1960s, biologists knew of only 75 Osprey pairs in the entire state of Michigan.
The use of DDT was banned in the United States in 1972.
In central and northern Michigan, Ospreys were able to maintain small, isolated populations with human assistance. The birds were monitored, and artificial nests were built to replace natural nest trees that had been cut down. But, although northern populations did rebound, Ospreys have been slow to spread into southern Michigan.
What is being done to restore Ospreys to southern Michigan?
In 1998, a program was started by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to reintroduce Ospreys into southern Michigan. The Osprey Reintroduction Program of Southern Michigan is a joint venture between the MDNR and two other agencies: the Detroit Zoological Institute and The Huron-Clinton Metropolitan Authority, with additional support from DTE Energy. It is funded by the Michigan Nongame Fish and Wildlife Fund.
The goal of the program is to establish a self-sustaining Osprey population in southern Michigan, with the specific objective of thirty nesting pairs by the year 2020. Kensington MetroPark was chosen as a trial site because of its location and natural features. Male Osprey chicks were raised and released at Kensington for five years, between 1998 and 2002. Also, Osprey chicks were hacked at the Maple River Wildlife Refuge, which is north of Lansing. Starting in 2003, chicks were hacked at two new locations, one on private land near the Barry State Game Area in western Michigan and the other at Stony Creek MetroPark near Rochester. The hope is that enough of the hacked birds from all of the program locations will survive to return and reproduce, and, once again, we will enjoy seeing this magnificent bird of prey in southern Michigan.