Updated: May 31, 8:22 a.m. | Posted: May 30, 11:10 a.m.
Throughout 2017, Minnesota Public Radio will celebrate 50 years on the air by sharing highlights from our archives, connecting Minnesota's past to its present. | This segment is from a nature walk with naturalist Kathy Heidel and Midday host Bob Potter in 1987.
Ospreys, also known as fish hawks, have become a more common sight around the Twin Cities metro area, with over 100 active nests.
But these handsome birds almost disappeared from southern Minnesota in the early 1900s due to loss of habitat, the use of pesticides in agriculture and their somewhat unfortunate fearlessness.
"They were mostly shot out. A nice big target, and they're not afraid to come near fishermen, hunters," said naturalist Kathy Heidel during a 1987 nature walk with MPR Midday host Bob Potter.
Heidel worked at the Carver Park Reserve for three decades and was a regular voice on MPR, answering listener questions and interpreting what she saw while walking through the reserve.
On this particular outing, Heidel and Potter spotted a family of ospreys nesting atop a utility pole. As they watched the mother sitting on her eggs another bird swooped in.
"Oh exciting, exciting," Heidel said. "I'll bet he just brought in something to feed his wife."
Ospreys eat mostly crappies and other pan fish, she explained. And it was the abundance of these kinds of fish in the Twin Cities' waters that gave conservationists the confidence to reintroduce the birds to the area.
In 1984, the park system known now as Three Rivers Park District took six young ospreys from northern Minnesota, where there was an abundance of the birds, and introduced them into the Carver Park Reserve.
In the first couple of years the birds were too young to reproduce, but Heidel hoped that the family she and Potter spotted that day would be the first success story.
"We're hoping that the eggs will be fertile, and for the first time in this century there will be baby ospreys in the southern half of Minnesota," she said.
From 1984 to 1995, 144 birds were added to different areas around the Twin Cities, and today volunteers watch the nests to ensure the ospreys stay safe and stick around, for good this time.
More on Minnesota's birds
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• Photography: Owl feeding controversy ruffles feathers
• Interview: Summertime birds in Minnesota