Veterinary Care: Return of the Osprey

Dr. Ann Duncan is the Chief Veterinarian for the Detroit Zoological Society.

In 1998, the Detroit Zoological Society (DZS) Ospreystarted 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.

Ospreys - Banding at KensingtonThe 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

 

Education: Protect the Pollinators

Claire Lannoye-Hall is a Curator of Education for the Detroit Zoological Society.

Summer vacation is upon us and we can’t wait for you to visit the Detroit Zoo. There are so many new things happening here – the wolves are exploring their new habitat and the dinosaurs are beckoning from the trail.

While the summer offers many great Butterfly - Roy Lewisopportunities to visit the Zoo, it also brings out bees, butterflies and other pollinators, which are very important to the environment. They help flowers bloom and fruits and vegetables grow. Without them, there wouldn’t be food for us or for the animals to eat. Fortunately, we can help them in a few simple ways.

Start by avoiding the use of pesticides and herbicides. While they may keep the weeds away and your grass a little bit greener, they are devastating to pollinator populations. Consider pulling weeds by hand or using an organic alternative such as mulch or hot water to eliminate weeds.

Honey BeeYou can also plant a pollinator garden. Native plants are easy to find, easy to take care of and are great for pollinators. For southeast Michigan, try lupine, bee balm, coneflower or cardinal flower. Bees and butterflies will likely find your garden first, but if you’re lucky, hummingbirds may stop by, too! For more suggestions on what to plant, visit: http://pollinator.org/guides.htm.

Monarch butterflies are of special concern due to habitat loss. Here at the Zoo, we have special gardens called “Monarch Waystations” that are certified by Monarch Watch, a nonprofit organization. The plants in these gardens provide food and shelter for monarchs throughout metamorphosis and as they travel to and from their overwintering grounds in Mexico. Next time you’re at the Zoo, look for one of these gardens and see if there are any Monarch butterflies visiting. You can find out more about creating your own certified waystation by visiting: http://www.monarchwatch.org/waystations.

Finally, you can help scientists by making observations and collecting data. Scientists need to know how many and what kinds of pollinators are in your backyard. Becoming a citizen scientist is easier than you might think. Visit some of the sites here for more information: http://pollinatorlive.pwnet.org/teacher/citizen.php.

We look forward to seeing you at the Zoo this summer!

– Claire Lannoye-Hall