Piping Plovers return to Chicago beach

Piping Plovers
The Piping Plovers known as Monty and Rose return to Chicago’s Montrose Beach. Photo by Tony Troche/Chicago Park District

Great news! Monty and Rose, the pair of Piping Plovers that nested at Chicago’s Montrose Beach last summer, have returned.

The birds were the first of their species to nest in the Windy City since the 1950s. After losing their first 2019 nest to the rising waters of Lake Michigan, the plovers nested a second time and fledged two chicks.

The event garnered significant media attention in America’s third-largest city and raised awareness about threatened and endangered wildlife in an urban area.

On May 1, Louise Clemency, field supervisor for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Chicago, and Jason Steger, natural areas manager for the Chicago Park District, reported that Monty and Rose were back on the beach and were soon observed making a nest scrape in the sand.

Clemency wrote: “While the Chicago lakefront, including Montrose Beach, is closed to all public in response to COVID-19, the Chicago Park District staff have been keeping an eye out for the return of Monty and Rose. The plover pair, spotted this morning, are already engaging in courtship behavior, which includes making multiple nest scrapes in the sand. This is typical, and eventually Rose will select a scrape (which is a small depression in the sand) to lay a clutch of eggs. 

“Currently, the Lakefront is closed to the public and we are relying on a small team of Federal, State, and Park District staff to monitor and protect the endangered piping plovers. Chicago Park District, Illinois Department of Natural Resources, USDA Wildlife Services, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff will continue to monitor so that protective measures can be put in place as soon as eggs are laid. An Illinois Department of Natural Resources biologist will set a wire “exclosure” over the eggs to protect the nest from predators, such as raccoons or skunks. Monty and Rose will be able to move freely in and out of the cage as they take turns incubating the eggs and feeding away from the nest. USDA biologists will erect cameras to monitor conditions at the nest. All work will be done using COVID-19 specific precautions.

“The Great Lakes Piping Plover population, once down to less than 20 pairs, has rebounded thanks to recovery efforts to around 70 breeding pairs. More information about the Great Lakes Piping Plover recovery effort can be found here: https://www.greatlakespipingplover.org/

“Last year’s successful fledging of two Piping Plovers from the Chicago nest lifted the spirits of plover enthusiasts across the Great Lakes. The Chicago Park District team has been wonderful to work with, and we appreciate their ongoing work and extra efforts to support Monty and Rose for a second successful nesting season.”

The Chicago Tribune noted that while Rose wintered in Florida, no one knows where Monty spent the winter, though he may have been somewhere along the Gulf Coast near Texas.

“Yet somehow they managed to be back at Montrose within a 48-hour window of each other,” Tamima Itani, of the Illinois Ornithological Society, said. “It’s really a big sense of relief.”

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