Ospreys Outfitted with GPS Backpacks


Ospreys are one of many birds of prey native to Michigan, but for a while they were struggling to survive. Issues with habitat loss, predation, and pesticides such as DDT have been a problem, causing numbers to dwindle. However, thanks to careful management, Michigan’s ospreys are bouncing back.

Hatched at area platforms and even on a cellular tower, four osprey chicks have received some specialized, information-collecting gear. They have been outfitted with backpacks carrying GPS telemetry units, which will enable movement and migration tracking, providing essential feedback to researchers.

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

Osprey (2) 7-21-16

In 2015, four chicks that were outfitted with the same type of gear tragically did not make it. However, a chick from 2014 is thriving and has 2,000 miles worth of recent world traveling to boast. Named Ozzie, she has visited places such as Colombia, Mexico, and Panama before taking a northerly route back to West Virginia.

With high death rates amongst osprey chicks and 60% not living to see their second year, garnering information via these GPS backpacks is very valuable. If you want to see for yourself what the chicks are up to, the Michigan Osprey website shows a GPS log of their travels. They are expected to begin migration in September, so that is when the fun of watching will truly begin.

As of 2015, the number of active osprey nests has increased from just one to at least 60.  Ospreys have since been removed from the threatened species list, a clear indicator of a management effort that is working. Don’t forget that you can help as well by contacting Michigan Osprey if nesting ospreys move into your area.

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