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 GLPIPL Nest of 2016 Breeding Season

Screen Shot 2016-05-01 at 2.11.50 PMEarlier today, the first Great Lakes piping plover nest of 2016 was discovered by monitors at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

This nest is a full week earlier than the first nest found last year. In 2015, Ludington State Park held the title for first nest discovered.

The breeding season is officially in full swing and chicks will be on the beaches of the Great Lakes in about a month!


Please note: One of our trained and experienced workers took the picture included in this post last year. It was taken quickly when setting up the protective exclosure to prevent predators from accessing the nest as easily. We ask that everyone always respect the plovers and their eggs/chicks by giving them lots of room. Giving them lots of room decreases the level of disturbance and stress they experience. Thank you!

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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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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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GLPIPL & End of Season Have Distracted Us From Posting

pipl-parent-and-chick.jpgWe know we’re behind on posting and appreciate your patience. We hope that in this lull you’ve gotten a chance to get outside and see some GLPIPL or at least other wildlife in your area.

The reason for this lull is that the 2015 breeding season came to a rapid close. Our banding crew is now on to data entering and analysis, most of our monitors are packing up and heading home, and the birds of course have started their incredible journey south to their non-breeding grounds. There are a few hatch year birds that are stragglers still around in some nesting locations, but otherwise the birds are on the move.

Again, we appreciate the continued support and will post more as soon as everything has transitioned and gotten situated for the non-breeding season.

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Historical GLPIPL Range Represented This Year

General 2015 GLPIPL Breeding Sites (plus Duluth, Minnesota)

General 2015 GLPIPL Breeding Sites (plus Duluth, Minnesota)

As if breaking the record number of pairs (still currently at 73 pairs for 2015) wasn’t enough for this season, the other big story is that the historical range (at least the edges of it) has been represented this year for the first time in decades.

We had birds nesting in the Chicago area (our most southern site) all the way north to the shores of Lake Superior. We also had birds nesting in Toronto and New York on Lake Ontario. And though there was never a nest found, some GLPIPL were also observed in Duluth, Minnesota.

The high water levels and spring weather were definitely obstacles this year in regards to nesting habitat. This may have led to the birds revisiting old nesting sites. We do not have any specific explanation as to why the plovers spread out as much as they did though. It will be interesting to see what the birds do next year and where they breed. As people we can help the plovers overall as well create conducive nesting areas by giving the birds lots of space, keeping our dogs leashed, and other easy acts to be respectful of the wildlife on the beach in general.

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2015 Rescued Captive Reared GLPIPL Now Flying Free

A 2015 rescued captive raised GLPIPL chick on it's way to be released back into the wild.

A 2015 rescued captive raised GLPIPL chick on it’s way to be released back into the wild.

As of July 18th, all seven of the 2015 GLPIPL chicks that were rescued as eggs and raised in our Detroit Zoo sponsored captive rearing center were released. These chicks came from three different nests. Predation on a nest, predation on an adult, and a storm wash out led to these clutches of eggs being collected and brought in. The chicks were incubated and then raised until they were capable of flying by zookeepers that come from across the country to care for the birds.

Four chicks were released at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lake Shore and three chicks were released in Manistee. The chicks are released at sites that have wild chicks of similar age. This is done in the hopes that they can learn from each other as well as have protection in numbers. We do a predator analysis as well to ensure the release location is safe.

To learn more about our captive rearing program check out our permanent, informational page: What We Do – Rescue Captive Rearing


History in the Making – Record Number of GLPIPL Pairs this year!

GLPIPL mom brooding (keeping her chicks warm)

GLPIPL mom brooding (keeping her chicks warm)

We are excited to share that there are officially 73 pairs of GLPIPL currently for the 2015 breeding season! This is a new record (previously 71 pairs) since this population was listed as federally endangered in 1986.

The season is quickly wrapping up so stay tuned for more recaps and summaries of the summer.

Also, make sure to check out the website thoroughly to learn more about the project and recovery effort. At the top of the page are permanent reference tabs where you can learn more about the piping plovers specifically, who we arewhat we do, and what you can do. Also make sure to check us out on Twitter and Facebook (@GLPIPL) to get more up to the minute updates from the field.