Dr. Ann Duncan is the Chief Veterinarian for the Detroit Zoological Society.
In 1998, the Detroit Zoological Society (DZS) started providing veterinary assistance as part of a collaborative effort to reintroduce ospreys, a fish-eating raptor, to southeastern Michigan. The Department of Natural Resources, Kensington Metropark, the DZS and DTE worked together to help this majestic species return to the area after being impacted by use of the pesticide DDT. Ospreys had historically been found in our area, but there were no known nesting pairs in southeast Michigan when the project was initiated.
Between 1998 and 2007, osprey chicks were brought down from northern Michigan, raised in elevated platforms on lakes and released at Kensington Metropark, Berry County and Stony Creek Metropark. All chicks were banded so that they could be identified by a network of volunteers and biologists devoted to their monitoring and recovery. At the end of the summer, these chicks then migrated to their winter grounds in South America and, after reaching maturity returned to the place in southeastern Michigan where they fledged, or began flying and feeding on their own. The first chick returned in 2002, and numbers have increased steadily since that time.
This year, there are more than 30 nesting pairs in southeast Michigan, most choosing to nest in cell towers. There is now a self-sustaining population of ospreys in the southern half of the Lower Peninsula. Beginning last year, funding was secured to fit a few of the chicks with backpack transmitters that send a GPS signal and allow the birds’ migration patterns to be tracked.
The DZS was initially involved in helping to feed and care for the chicks in the towers; we spent time monitoring the chicks in their nests and providing food, nutritional supplements and veterinary care. Now that we are no longer moving osprey chicks from northern Michigan, our involvement is limited to conducting exams and collecting blood samples for health monitoring and gender determination of the chicks produced by our now resident ospreys.
Over the years, the chicks have generally been incredibly healthy and robust. A few have been slightly dehydrated and some have had parasites, but none have had serious medical issues. It’s been incredibly rewarding to be a part of this successful reintroduction program. The biologists and volunteers involved in this effort are talented and dedicated to the success of this wonderful native Michigan bird.
– Dr. Ann Duncan