Plants and Animals

Pandion haliaetus Osprey

species photo
species photo
species photo
species photo
Aaron Kortenhoven
species photo
Aaron Kortenhoven
species photo
Aaron Kortenhoven

Key Characteristics

The Osprey is a large (22 -25 in / 56 - 64 cm) hawk with long, narrow wings, dark brown upper parts and white under parts. Its head is white with a dark eye streak. The dark "wrist" patches on the underside of its wings are visible in flight. Females may have dark streaking around their necks and immature bards have pale buff edging on the dark feathers of their upper surface.

Status and Rank

US Status: No Status/Not Listed
State Status: SC - Special Concern (rare or uncertain; not legally protected)
Global Rank: G5 - Secure
State Rank: S4 - Apparently secure


CountyNumber of OccurrencesYear Last Observed
Alcona 1 2019
Alger 12 2000
Allegan 2 2022
Alpena 6 2017
Antrim 4 2023
Baraga 6 2000
Barry 6 2022
Bay 1 2023
Benzie 3 1995
Berrien 4 2023
Branch 1 2022
Calhoun 8 2023
Cass 1 2020
Charlevoix 3 2019
Cheboygan 9 2022
Chippewa 72 2006
Clare 4 2023
Clinton 3 2023
Crawford 7 2022
Delta 35 2022
Dickinson 9 2005
Emmet 8 2017
Genesee 6 2023
Gogebic 21 2008
Grand Traverse 4 2023
Gratiot 4 2022
Hillsdale 2 2020
Houghton 1 1983
Ingham 1 2023
Ionia 9 2023
Iosco 3 2023
Iron 34 2023
Isabella 2 2022
Jackson 2 2023
Kalamazoo 8 2023
Kalkaska 3 1994
Kent 2 2022
Keweenaw 10 2000
Lapeer 9 2022
Lenawee 3 2023
Livingston 13 2023
Luce 17 2003
Mackinac 42 2001
Macomb 3 2022
Manistee 3 1995
Marquette 12 2023
Mecosta 13 2021
Menominee 1 1994
Midland 1 2023
Missaukee 2 2017
Monroe 16 2022
Montcalm 2 2022
Montmorency 8 2017
Muskegon 2 2022
Newaygo 1 2023
Oakland 23 2023
Ogemaw 8 2022
Osceola 3 2019
Ottawa 2 2023
Presque Isle 1 1994
Roscommon 25 2022
Schoolcraft 16 2008
St. Clair 3 2023
St. Joseph 1 2022
Van Buren 2 2023
Washtenaw 7 2022
Wayne 8 2023
Wexford 1 2019

Information is summarized from MNFI's database of rare species and community occurrences. Data may not reflect true distribution since much of the state has not been thoroughly surveyed.


Historically, Ospreys nested only in trees or snags or on cliffs but they have adapted to use some man-made structures such as utility poles and towers, chimneys, windmills, buoys, and platforms. Preferred nest sites are above or near water. Reintroductions have begun in certain areas in southern Michigan in recent years.

Specific Habitat Needs

Snag/cavity needed in: Floodplain forestHardwood-conifer swampNorthern hardwood swampSouthern hardwood swamp.

Natural Community Types

For each species, lists of natural communities were derived from review of the nearly 6,500 element occurrences in the MNFI database, in addition to herbarium label data for some taxa. In most cases, at least one specimen record exists for each listed natural community. For certain taxa, especially poorly collected or extirpated species of prairie and savanna habitats, natural community lists were derived from inferences from collection sites and habitat preferences in immediately adjacent states (particularly Indiana and Illinois). Natural communities are not listed for those species documented only from altered or ruderal habitats in Michigan, especially for taxa that occur in a variety of habitats outside of the state.

Natural communities are not listed in order of frequency of occurrence, but are rather derived from the full set of natural communities, organized by Ecological Group. In many cases, the general habitat descriptions should provide greater clarity and direction to the surveyor. In future versions of the Rare Species Explorer, we hope to incorporate natural community fidelity ranks for each taxon.

Management Recommendations

Human activity near nesting birds may interfere with nesting success. Maintenance and construction activities should be avoided in a quarter mile radius around active nests between the onset of courtship in April and fledging of young birds in July. Additionally, snags should be left standing along shorelines whenever safety permits, as they are utilized both for nesting and perching while hunting.

Active Period

Migration from fourth week of March to second week of April

Migration from first week of September to third week of November

Nesting from third week of April to fourth week of July

Survey Methods

Osprey are best surveyed by checking lakes, rivers, and reservoirs for foraging adults that may be soaring overhead or perched on a snag, platform, or utility pole. Following adults during the breeding season may lead to the discovery of a nest. Known locations of nests or nesting platforms constructed to attract nesting Ospreys may also be checked as they will commonly use the same nest in successive years.

Visual observation

Survey Period: From second week of May to first week of August

Time of Day: Daytime


Survey References

  • Bibby, C.J., N.D. Burgess, and D.A. Hill. 1992. Bird Census Techniques. Academic Press, New York.

Technical References

  • Brewer, R., G. A. McPeek, and R. J. Adams Jr., eds. 1991. The Atlas of Breeding Birds of Michigan. Michigan State University Press, East Lansing. 650pp.
  • Evers, D.C. 1994. Endangered and Threatened Wildlife of Michigan. The University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor. 412pp.

More Information