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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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.


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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.