MILFORD, Mich. – Southeast Michigan's oldest known osprey just turned 20.
Starting in the 1960s, the osprey population declined significantly due to habitat destruction, indiscriminate shooting and use of pesticides.
The bird celebrating its birthday, known as C09, was brought to Kensington Metropark in 1999 as a chick as part of the Metropark's Osprey Reintroduction and Hacking Project.
Hacking is when young ospreys from the north are brought to "hacking towers" downstate to be hand-fed and -raised.
The program started after the pesticide DDT was banned in 1972 and the osprey population slowly started increasing.
The bird is the first known osprey to raise young in southeast Michigan since DDT caused the population to dip. He raises two to three birds a year with his mate near a water tower in Kensington.
The reintroduction program had a goal to introduce 30 nesting pairs of osprey in Michigan by 2020. That goal was reached in 2010.
There are now about 50-60 osprey nests in the area.
"There was a time when we thought there might never be ospreys in southeast Michigan again, which is why it's such a thrill to know that C09 is turning 20 this year," said Amy McMillan, director at the Huron-Clinton Metropolitan Authority.
Staff and volunteers have assisted in helping the population continue to grow and survive.
Two Metroparks police officers recently helped save two ospreys chicks that fell into water at Kensington.
"Without actions like these, the osprey would likely still be a rare species in southeast Michigan. The positive intervention of these officers helped ensure the next generation of osprey is safe and protected," said David Kirbach, deputy director at the Huron-Clinton Metropolitan Authority.
The osprey still remains listed as a species of special concern. To learn more about how to help ospreys, click here.