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Piping Plover Chicks Released back into the Wild

Once abundant throughout shorelines on the East Coast and Midwest, hunting and human development reduced the Piping Plover population to an estimated 20-30 individuals along the Great Lakes. However, since conservation began in earnest in the mid 1980s, the population has recovered to at least 70 breeding pairs counted in 2009. 

Just a few weeks agos, three abandoned Piping Plover eggs were discovered along Lake Michigan and transferred to the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago. Hatched and reared by zoo staff, the grown chicks were returned to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Michigan on Aug. 7th. 

Piping plover chick 1

Piping plover chick 2

Piping plover chick 3

Piping plover chick 4

Learn more by reading on or at the US Fish and Wildlife Service site.

Endangered Piping Plover Chicks Make History

Three chicks are first from Illinois nest in 30 years

Chicago, IL (August 11, 2009) – Three tiny chicks, rescued before hatching from the first piping plover nest found in Illinois in 30 years, were released Friday, Aug. 7 at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Michigan, representing new hope for the recovery of this endangered shorebird. 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources confirmed that a pair of piping plovers constructed a nest and tended four eggs this summer on a remote stretch of Lake Michigan shoreline in northern Illinois. This is the first piping plover nest found in Illinois since 1979. 

After the adults apparently abandoned the nest due possibly to human disturbance or predation, the eggs were rescued and placed in incubators at Lincoln Park Zoo. Three chicks hatched and were transported to a rearing facility at the University of Michigan Biological Station at Pellston, where they were cared for until ready to be released.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Northern Michigan, administered by the National Park Service, was selected as release site because it is relatively close to the captive rearing facility and because other plovers are still present.  If possible, birds are released at locations where they can intermingle with other piping plovers before heading south.  

State and federal wildlife managers credited contributions from a number of cooperators for the milestone in piping plover recovery. 

“This milestone is a direct result of strong partnerships,” said Kristopher Lah, endangered species biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “Each of the partners brought a spirit of cooperation and willingness to overcome obstacles – and that’s the key to success for any endangered species recovery program.”

The nest was discovered through periodic surveys conducted by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources; the IDNR also led the effort to monitor the nest.  The breeding pair of plovers was found by IDNR Wildlife Biologist Scott Garrow, who said, “finding the breeding pair of piping plovers in Illinois is one of the true highlights of my 30-year career.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service provided support for nest monitoring and protection.  Johns Manville, which owns property near the nesting site, gave biologists access to the beach to monitor the nest; and the Lake County Health Department provided water quality tests.  Illinois Beach State Park site staff provided logistical support. Lincoln Park Zoo, the Detroit Zoological Society and the University of Michigan provided hatching and rearing facilities and expertise.

The Great Lakes population of the piping plover was listed as endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act in 1986.  These birds nest along some of the most popular beaches in the Great Lakes and have been making a slow recovery.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reports a total of more than 70 breeding pairs in the Great Lakes this season, the largest pair total since listing.

For more information on recovery efforts for the piping plover, visit the Service’s Midwest Region website at www.fws.gov/midwest/endangered