After World War II the USA became the earths producer of food. With a starving world America pushed agriculture to the limit. Grow wheat and corn at all costs. That effort was devastating to our most beautiful birds. DDT was used for pest control to increase crops, but it took many egg laying species to the brink of extinction. The Bald Eagle, the Eastern Blue Bird and the Osprey suffered due to their eating habits. DDT contaminated the food chain. It's presence attacked the eggs of these species causing soft shells and thus reproduction failure. By the late 1950s they were all but gone from Michigan. DDT deemed the culprit was then banned. Their comeback was slow but the Blue Bird now has returned to the meadows, the Bald Eagle populates the small Lakes and Great Lake Shore lines here in Northern Michigan. The Osprey which never was big in numbers seems to be the last to recover. It is because they have a one source diet...fish. Not only was DDT washing into the lakes and streams, mercury poisoning added to the problem. Eagles that have a varied diet of carrion do not live exclusively on fish, the Osprey does.
The Osprey is a master angler, it takes large healthy fish, where as you often see Eagles flying at water level pick up an injured or dead fish. The Osprey dives head long at high speed right into the water. With its talons tucked neatly under its beak, wings back, the Osprey penetrates the lakes surface, then it must lift off and struggle for altitude. It's wings are long and thin for a high speed dive and level flight takes more effort. As it labors to stay airborne it must control the fighting live fish. The Osprey then does something that no other bird does. It turns the fishes head forward for less wind resistance and flight control, while the fish struggles, flying back to the nest.
The Osprey is hard to identify. It will helicopter over its prey, then dive similar to the Common Tern. It has a white appearance like the sea gull. Distinguishing characteristics are, much longer wings and the head first hold of a large fish in its talons. That hold of the fish is easy to see as it flys by you. Seagulls can't hold fish with their web feet. Osprey travel at very high altitudes when not seeking out prey. A well trained eye can help you with field identification. Silhouette and motion can help you identify the Osprey at a miles distance. It is difficult to get close to this bird to see color patterns or markings but if you take an educated look you will find the magnificent Osprey is back, the last raptor to recover.
My favorite Osprey story ;
A father rented a car in Detroit to take his family on vacation in northern Michigan. Upon his return he took the rental car back to the Agency. The agent noticed a large dent on the hood of the car and asked for an explanation? The father replied, I hit a fish! He further explained, that a giant bird dropped a big fish that hit and dented the hood of the car. The rental agent accepted the damage report and remarked..."No one can make up a fish story like that ".
Sweet Is The Lore That Nature Brings