The Great Lakes Piping Plover (GLPIPL) population used to span the entire Great Lakes region. However, since they were federally listed as endangered in the mid 1980’s with only about a dozen total pairs, the population has been primarily found on the shores of Michigan, USA. There have been a few additional nests each year as well in the Apostle Islands, Wisconsin as well as a few Lake Huron Ontario beaches closest to Michigan.
This year though two potential pairs have been observed on the Toronto Islands in Lake Ontario. This is the first time any GLPIPL might take up summer residency to breed at this site since 1934. That’s 81 years since there were GLPIPL chicks on the Toronto Islands.
Thus far, two birds with bands (or leg bracelets) have been identified. They are named or referred to by their band combination. The band combos are written from the bird’s perspective, left to right and top to bottom.
The first bird is O,b:X,O/b (b175, G dot on O). Thus, this bird has an orange band (O) with a green dot (G dot on O) on it’s upper left leg and a light blue band (b) inscribed with the numbers 175 on it’s lower left leg. There is an official USGS metal band (X) with a unique number on the bird’s upper right leg followed by a “split” orange and light blue band on the bottom. This bird hatched, along with three siblings, in 2014 on North Manitou Island in Lake Michigan. Until more behaviors are observed and can be observed, the sex of this bird can only be speculated. However, from the plumage, this bird does appear to be male.
The second bird is X,Y/O:O,Y (Y022). That translates (again bird’s left to right, top to botton) to a USGS metal band, a Yellow/Orange split band followed by an orange band then a Yellow band inscribed with 022. This bird hatched, along with three siblings, in 2014 at Wasaga Beach, Canada, along Lake Huron.
Given that this is an incredible story both for the birds and the birders that are already flocking to see them, we’d like to kindly remind people to respect the birds even more diligently than usual. To ensure that the birds breed as well as are successful (both with any potential nesting and returning to the site in the future), please make sure to maintain a considerable distance to give the birds space even currently when the birds don’t have any nests/eggs yet. Not littering and staying relatively quiet around the birds is also advised. Also, please remember to keep any dogs on leash in the area to avoid scaring or causing additional stress to the birds.
Other blogs and social media posts have touched on the topic of whether banding is ethical. Posts have even been written about bands in bird photography. It is because of banding that we can keep such detailed records and monitor each individual GLPIPL in this endangered population. While it would obviously be preferred to not interfere with birds of any species, we as a society have learned so much because of the data we can collect when we have a bird in the hand. We have also reached a point where humans have influenced our planet to such an extent that marking every bird in an endangered population is needed for wildlife management and conservation efforts.