Updates on Montrose Piping Plovers


September 2019 Update

All of the Great Lakes Piping Plovers have left Montrose Beach, and have hopefully arrived at their winter homes in the Carolinas, Texas or Florida.

A chick trying out its wings. pc: Susan Szeszol

A chick trying out its wings. pc: Susan Szeszol

August 7, 2019 Update

Monty and the 2 chicks are doing fine this morning. The past week has been an interesting one as Rose has gone off on her own to prepare for migration and Monty has remained with the chicks. Rose occasionally approached the family group and Monty has driven her away. Potential predators or antagonists were scared off through the efforts of monitors, biologists, and most importantly the very tenacious birds themselves: gulls, great blue herons, killdeer and spotted sandpipers, and peregrine falcons. The chicks have been making short flights - according to the math, they could take off as early as tomorrow.

July 31, 2019 Update

The 2 chicks feeding at the fluddle.

The 2 chicks feeding at the fluddle.

The remaining 2 chicks are doing well, eating and running around almost constantly when they are not being warmed by Monty. Rose, as is usual with female shorebirds, will migrate before Monty and the chicks. She is still close by, feeding and preparing for her imminent migration, but not involved with Monty and the chicks.

July 29, 2019 Update

From Brad Semel, IDNR … Despite supportive care all day and into the evening by veterinary staff of the Lincoln Park Zoo, the 11-day old plover chick did not survive. The Lincoln Park Zoo pathologist will conduct a necropsy to further evaluate the chick and prepare a report on the findings. A histopathology report also will be completed in hopes that we can better understand the circumstances surrounding the sudden change in health.

A special note of thanks goes to the Lincoln Park Zoo and their staff who were able to so quickly respond to the sudden arrival of the chick and for the care that they provided.

July 28, 2019 Update

This morning, FWS authorized Tamima Itani (Piperwatch Coordinator) to collect one of the chicks who was exhibiting unwell behavior. The chick was observed standing still, with its eyes closed, and eventually, sitting awkwardly on the sand. The bird was captured and is now in the care of the Lincoln Park Zoo, who was prepared for its arrival and rehabilitation. We're hopeful this bird can recover and wish good luck to the volunteer monitors working to keep the remaining two chicks safe!!

Only Monty has been located so far today. As of now, it appears that Rose has started her migration south, which is normal behavior for adult females.

July 27, 2019 Update

As of this morning, all three chicks and both parents are doing fine!

July 20, 2019 Update

Mamby on the Beach, the large concert scheduled in August, has been cancelled. This is great news. The combined efforts of local birding and environmental groups and the people behind them, including the petition we delivered to the Chicago Park District last week (see July 17 update), demonstrated the value of high quality natural habitat in the city. We are happy that this threat to the habitat is eliminated, but we hope that CPD will convene stakeholders to set a transparent policy with guidelines for large events that protects both the many birds that use the beach and the habitat and its character as a refuge.

July 19, 2019 Update

Three chicks have hatched! The fourth egg has been abandoned. The new chicks are in various stages of independence, walking and eating with their parents Rose and Monty close by. Their survival in the next week is tenuous as they face many challenges from weather, food availability and predators. Congratulations to all who have played critical roles in protecting their habitat to date: the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, the Chicago Park District, the Montrose Lakefront Coalition, Chicago Ornithological Society, Illinois Ornithological Society, other conservation partners, and all the plover monitors who are out there every day engaging beachgoers and protecting the habitat! Follow Chicago Audubon on Facebook for detailed daily updates.

July 17, 2019 Update

At the July Chicago Park District Board meeting, Chicago Audubon Society President presented a petition with close to 6,000 signatures, and a letter signed by 12 local conservation organizations (PDF), calling on the CPD to find another venue for the Mamby Concert and to develop transparent guidelines for large events at Montrose Beach.

Here’s the latest update on the concert: Jam is still selling tickets, and we have not gotten a response to our letter.

The expectation is that the Piping Plovers will have fledged around the concert date in late August. We’ve heard that there are several alternative plans, and one has the source of music 1000m away, north of Wilson, the guideline given by US Fish and Wildlife.

In our view, this means CPD and Jam are betting on the birds leaving. We want the opposite - we want to create a welcoming environment for them and for other shorebirds and migrants that use the beach. We want them to be able to use the beach to fatten up for migration. The dunes are such a unique and wonderful feature in an urban area, it would be great if CPD convened stakeholders to develop a policy with guidelines for large events that protects both the many birds that use the beach and the habitat and its character as a refuge.

June 24, 2019 Update

Monty and Rose exchanging nesting duties inside their protective cage. Photo: Tamima Itani

Monty and Rose laid a third egg, and possibly a fourth. USFWS and IDNR have placed a protective cage around their nest. Monty and Rose can move freely in and out of the cage, and take turns incubating the eggs by laying on them, and feeding.

June 21, 2019 Update

Rose and Monty have established a new nest and have laid 2 new eggs!

An information “fact sheet” has been created with key information about this important event (PDF).

June 19, 2019 update

The 2 Great Lakes Piping Plovers, Rose and Monty, are attempting to re-nest on higher ground at Montrose Beach.

In response to a planned large concert (Mamby) at Montrose Beach in August, Chicago Ornithological Society and Chicago Audubon Society have created a petition to request that the Chicago Park District find another location for the Mamby concert and convene a group of stakeholders to develop a policy about appropriate uses for Montrose Beach, natural areas, and the nearby recreational area.

Please read and sign the petition.

June 18, 2019 update

On 6/12/19, biologists with USFWS (United States Fish and Wildlife Service) and IDNR (Illinois Department of Natural Resources) made the difficult decision to collect the 4 Great Lakes Piping Plover eggs, to protect them from predicted storms and strong northerly winds. During the night, the beach where the nest and eggs were located became completely submerged in water, so this decision was a good one, helping greatly to save this federally endangered species. The eggs were initially incubated at Lincoln Park Zoo, and in partnership with the Detroit Zoo’s captive rearing program, are now safely incubating at the University of Michigan Biological Station in Pellston, Michigan. 

4 Great Lakes Piping Plover eggs incubating at Lincoln Park Zoo

4 Great Lakes Piping Plover eggs incubating at Lincoln Park Zoo

 Similarly, last year, Monty and Rose's eggs were collected in Waukegan, and produced a healthy chick that successfully migrated and was spotted at Silver Lake State Park in Michigan this spring.

Piping Plovers will often produce a second clutch, and the USFWS, the IDNR, and volunteers will continue to monitor the birds, leaving the roped area in place. Monty and Rose were observed engaging in courtship behaviors after egg collection, so we are hopeful for more eggs to help grow this endangered population of Piping Plovers.

Read more about Great Lakes Piping Plover Conservation.

June 8, 2019. A pair of Great Lakes Piping Plovers are at the Montrose public beach in the early process of nesting.  This is a first for Montrose and an exciting development for this federally endangered species. They represent one of just 70 or so breeding pairs of these birds. Perilously close to extinction in the region, this is a major milestone in their recovery from 13 pairs in the early 1980's.

An area has been roped off to protect the nesting location. 

Chicago Audubon Society (CAS), along with sister organizations Chicago Ornithological Society (COS) and Illinois Ornithological Society (IOS), is making a call for volunteer monitors to enhance nesting chances of success, given that this is a busy location.. Monitoring efforts are being coordinated with the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USF&W) and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) to provide daily dawn-to-dusk nest monitors through mid-August.

Volunteers Needed

If you have even just a few hours to spare, please send an email to piperwatch@chicagobirder.org. You will be contacted by a volunteer coordinator who will provide more details.

The monitoring activities consist of the following:

  • observing the two Piping Plovers and their nest from a distance (at least 40 -50 ft), making note of when courtship and mating take place and where (by a nest?  which one?)

  • Contacting IDNR and USF&W when the first egg is laid

  • if beachgoers appear to want to go in the roped off area, asking them nicely but firmly not to do so

  • If there is an off-leash dog on the beach that is getting close to the roped-off area, alerting the owner that the dog needs to be leashed, and/or calling security

  • otherwise enjoying the plovers' wonderful little personalities and courtship display.

This species nearly vanished from our shores. Thanks to the tireless efforts of the site stewards, the Chicago Park District, the above-mentioned agencies and the entire birding community we now might be able to enjoy these birds in greater numbers than ever imagined.

Photo by Tamima Itani. She and Leslie Borns along with our friends at COS have done a phenomenal job of getting this protection effort going.

For anyone who is not able to commit to 2 hrs but is able to drop by for an hour to keep the primary monitor company,  this is welcome, as evenings and week-ends will be busy and additional presence is helpful.