Great Lakes Piping Plover Recovery Effort

A partnership to study and conserve this migratory shorebird's endangered population between UMN, USFWS, USGS, NPS, DNR, more & You!


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First of Year Sighting- GLPIPL Return for 2016 Breeding Season

BO:X,g (male, first observed plover in the 2015 and 2016 breeding season, age 14 in 2016) courting a female - GLPIPL archive picture

BO:X,g (male, first observed plover in the 2015 and 2016 breeding season, age 14 in 2016) courting a female – GLPIPL archive picture

The male Great Lakes Piping Plover with combo BO:X,g has done it again. He’s the first GLPIPL to return on the breeding grounds in 2016, a title he held last year in 2015 as well. He even returned on the exact same day (April 13th) to the same area, the mouth of the Platte River (a portion of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore).

BO:X,g is also now tied for oldest GLPIPL ever recorded at 14 years of age.

Stay tuned for updates from the breeding grounds now as the 2016 season has officially begun!


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The GLPIPL Are Coming!

In 2015, the first GLPIPL was a male (color combo B,O:X,g) spotted at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore on April 13th. Will this week be the week that the first GLPIPL are spotted on the breeding grounds for 2016? Will B,O:X,g be the first plover seen again? Stay tuned to find out.

B,O:X,g (male, first observed plover in the 2015 breeding season, age 14 in 2016) courting a female

B,O:X,g (male, first observed plover in the 2015 breeding season on April 13th, age 14 in 2016) courting a female

Depending on where the GLPIPL spent the winter (and for many we have no idea where that is exactly) they may be traveling ~1,000 miles from the non-breeding grounds to the Great Lakes region where they will set up territories, nest, and raise their chicks. That’s an incredible feat for something that weighs the same amount as half a stick of butter!

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Piping Plover Seasonal Range and Distribution Map

General 2015 GLPIPL Breeding Sites (plus Duluth, Minnesota sighting)

General 2015 GLPIPL Breeding Sites (plus Duluth, Minnesota sighting)

Starting in May we will have full time, hired staff searching the beaches to identify each plover and discover where their territories are. Fingers crossed for a great and successful season!


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Where Can You See a GLPIPL?

Currently, the only way to tell a piping plover is specifically a Great Lakes piping plover (GLPIPL) is by their bands. An orange flag on an adult is the distinctive and immediate tell. (Learn more about piping plover bird banding here.) We do not use any tracking technology such as geolocators or transmitting tags on the birds that are being used on other species of birds to pin point where a bird is specifically.

During the breeding season (April-August) our monitors and crew primarily are the ones to find piping plovers across the Great Lakes region. This is done extensively with countless miles of beach thoroughly searched. Given this, we know the exact range of GLPIPL on their breeding grounds. Last year (2015) the birds represented the full extent of their historic range with plovers found in Minnesota to New York, Illinois to Canada, and everywhere in between.

General 2015 GLPIPL Breeding Sites (plus Duluth, Minnesota)

General 2015 GLPIPL Breeding Sites (plus Duluth, Minnesota)

During the non-breeding season (August-April) we rely on bird-watchers and citizen scientists to submit a report on any GLPIPL they might find. This is completely voluntary. We are grateful to all of those that have gone birding and taken the time to share their sightings of GLPIPL with us. Given that we do not have a winter crew tasked with the mission of finding every plover on the non-breeding grounds, we don’t have as specific an idea of where the birds are. GLPIPL scatter across a vast area during the winter and with so few birds relatively, both in general and in comparison to the Great Plains and Atlantic population, finding every bird can be like finding a needle in a haystack.

Through the reports people turn in we can get a good idea of the range at least. The most northern site used by GLPIPL during the non-breeding season is the southern coast of North Carolina, south of the Outer Banks. GLPIPL have been found as far south as the Caribbean. The most western sites GLPIPL have spent the winter include the western coast of the Gulf of Mexico, including Texas and Mexico. No birds have ever been reported more east than the US coast. The goal is to one day have a more specific awareness of where GLPIPL spend their non-breeding season. Not only is this important for filling in gaps of our GLPIPL knowledge and understanding, but is vital to improving conservation efforts. Piping plovers need habitat in multiple locations to be protected in order to have places to live throughout the year, not only during one season.

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Recharging the GLPIPL Website!

plovernest2We want to thank everyone for their patience as well as support for the Great Lakes Piping Plover Recovery Effort! An unintended hiatus of sorts happened with our webpage this winter. During the school year, we enter and analyze data, write various reports and grants, and more, all to help the recovery effort continue being successful. We’d like to think our webpage got a rest and some time relaxing on a southern beach, just like the GLPIPL.

Our field season is fast approaching and we are working tirelessly to prepare though. The adult piping plovers have started migrating and will be returning to the breeding grounds that span the Great Lakes region in a few weeks. Nesting will begin in early/mid May. We are very excited for everything to start and to share updates on the plovers with you.


 

Please Note: We have posted on our social media sites (Twitter/Facebook: @GLPIPL) throughout the winter. We encourage you to connect with us on those platforms as well to stay up to date with the birds and recovery effort. Thank you!

 


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Virginia Tech Shorebirds Rebands Two of This Year’s GLPIPL Chicks

GLPIPL adult banded by VT Shorebirds on Cumberland Island, GA, USA in October 2015

GLPIPL adult banded by VT Shorebirds on Cumberland Island, GA, USA in October 2015 (Photo Credit: VT Shorebirds)

This past weekend one of our partners, the Virginia Tech Shorebird Program (VTS), re-banded two hatch year Great Lakes piping plovers (GLPIPL). This means they caught two birds that were born in the Great Lakes region on the non-breeding grounds. VTS then replaced the chick combo bands the birds were wearing with unique adult combos. The banding specifically took place on Cumberland Island, Georgia, which has been a popular GLPIPL non-breeding site over the years.

One of the GLPIPL VTS caught hatched this summer in Grand Marais in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It was originally banded X,R:-,O (left to right, top to bottom on the bird’s legs this translates to numbered aluminum band, red and nothing, orange). The permanent adult combo this bird will now wear is X,b:Of,GO (numbered aluminum band, light blue and orange flag, green, orange).

GLPIPL adult banded by VT Shorebirds on Cumberland Island, GA, USA in October 2015 (Photo Credit: VT Shorebirds)

GLPIPL adult banded by VT Shorebirds on Cumberland Island, GA, USA in October 2015 (Photo Credit: VT Shorebirds)

The other GLPIPL rebanded is originally from Whitefish Point in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan as well. It was originally banded X,B:O,B (numbered aluminum band, dark blue then orange, dark blue). The permanent adult combo that now uniquely identifies this bird is X,Y:Of,GL (numbered aluminum band, yellow then orange flag, dark green, black). Coincidentally this bird was the first chick at Whitefish Point that we banded this year.

These birds have already overcome incredible obstacles (surviving to fledging and making the first migration journey typically has a high mortality rate for any migratory bird). We’re excited to learn more about what these birds do this winter and where they end up returning to breed in the Great Lakes region next summer. Not to mention, we’re anxious for them to get their adult plumage next year so we can determine if they are male or female (piping plover males and females look to similar to be 100% certain with their juvenile and non-breeding plumage).

 

 


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6 out of 7 Captive-Reared GLPIPL Chicks from 2015 Seen on Wintering Grounds

Of,b/OB:X,B seen 9/24 by Adam Dinuovo and Jean Hall

Orange flag (upper left) over light blue-orange split over dark blue (lower left), metal band (upper right) over dark blue (lower right) aka Of,b/OB:X,B seen 9/24 by Adam Dinuovo and Jean Hall

Our sixth captive-reared GLPIPL chick from this past summer had a confirmed sighting in Florida this past week. This is significant because only one captive-reared chick from 2015 is left to be seen on the wintering grounds. Six out of seven chicks is incredible success for both our captive-rearing program as well as the birds.

If you are birding on the GLPIPL wintering grounds this year make sure you keep an eye out for banded plovers.  Then tell us! We want to know if you see any banded Piping Plover with orange bands (the Great Lakes indicator color) please email us your sighting at plover@umn.edu with as much information and detail as possible. Pictures of the bird being reported are greatly appreciated.

For assistance on reading the color bands please check out our permanent page with more details and examples.

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Of,b/OB:X,B seen 9/24 by Adam Dinuovo and Jean Hall


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Update on 2015 Rescued Captive-Reared & Released GLPIPL

As a GLPIPL fan you know that part of what we do is rescue captive rearing for any eggs that might be compromised during the breeding season. This means that if eggs are abandoned by the parents, washed out during a storm, predated, or otherwise threatened, we will bring them into our Detroit Zoo sponsored captive rearing facility. Here zookeepers from around the country raise the chicks until they fledge (able to fly). Then the chicks are released back into the wild. The chicks are released with a band combination that includes an orange flag as well as a “split” or bi-colored band. The captive raised birds are the only ones with this pairing which allows anyone on the beach looking at the birds to instantly recognize if a banded piping plover is a Great Lakes captive reared bird. There are so few of these special GLPIPL that seeing one in the wild is not very common…

2015 Rescue-Captive Reared & Released GLPIPL, band combo Of,b/OG:X,G --seen August 2015 on Kiawah Island, South Carolina by Paula R. Feldman

2015 Rescue-Captive Reared & Released GLPIPL, band combo Of,b/OG:X,G –seen August 2015 on Kiawah Island, South Carolina by Paula R. Feldman

We currently do not use any special devices such as geolocators or gps satellites to track the birds, only the leg bands. Thus, we rely on people to follow the plovers throughout their annual life cycle. We have a large crew made up of monitors, the banding crew, and more in the Great Lakes region during the breeding season. However, we rely on winter volunteers and citizen scientists for the rest of the year, which essentially means anyone who sees a plover August through May and lets us know about it.

Recently, three 2015 rescued captive-reared and released GLPIPL were seen and reported to us (please send any reports to plover@umn.edu). This is incredibly exciting for both the people that found these birds and for us. We know that these two individuals not only were successful migrating to their non-breeding grounds but that they are also doing well overall.

The first GLPIPL was seen recently (August 2015) on Kiawah Island, South Carolina by Paula R. Feldman. This plover’s band combo is read Of,b/OG:X,G. This translates to orange flag on upper left then light blue above orange split band above dark green band on lower left followed by aluminum metal band on upper right then dark green on lower right. This bird came from a nest near the Platte River mouth where the mother had been predated.

2015 rescued captive reared chick Of,b/OY:X,B --seen August 2015 on Little Talbot Island, Florida by Pat and Doris Leary

2015 rescued captive reared chick Of,b/OY:X,B –seen August 2015 on Little Talbot Island, Florida by Pat and Doris Leary

The second GLPIPL was seen recently (August 2015) on Little Talbot Island, Florida by Pat and Doris Leary. This plover’s band combo is read Of,b/OY:X,B. This translates to orange flag on upper left then light blue above orange split band above yellow on lower left followed by aluminum metal band on upper right then dark blue on lower right. This bird came from a nest that was predated by chipmunks. Only one egg was viable after the event.

2015 rescued captive-reared GLPIPL -- seen August 2015 by Kevin Christman in the Florida Panhandle

2015 rescued captive-reared chick Of,b/OL:X,L — seen August 2015 in the Florida Panhandle by Kevin Christman

This translates to orange flag on upper left then light blue above orange split band above black band on lower left followed by aluminum metal band on upper right then black on lower right. This bird came from the same nest as Of,b/OG:X,G near the Platte River mouth where the mother had been predated.

If you see any banded Piping Plover with orange bands (the Great Lakes indicator color) please email us your sighting at plover@umn.edu with as much information and detail as possible. Pictures of the bird being reported are greatly appreciated.

For assistance on reading the color bands please check out our permanent page with more details and examples.