CHICAGO (May 20, 2022) In honor of Endangered Species Day, Audubon Great Lakes is celebrating the endangered Great Lakes Piping Plover, the short and stocky shorebird that nests on the beaches of the Great Lakes and has proven to be a conservation success story.
The shores of the Great Lakes were once home to nearly 800 pairs of Piping Plovers. In 1990 that number had dropped to 13. The Great Lakes piping plover population was listed as federally endangered under the U.S Endangered Species Act in 1986. Their population decline was, in part, due to nest disruption and predation as well as habitat deterioration.
Today, the Great Lakes shoreline now hosts around 75 breeding pairs, which is about halfway to the federal recovery goal of 150 breeding pairs thanks to recovery efforts funded by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) and carried out by members and affiliates of the Great Lakes Piping Plover Conservation Team.
“Endangered Species Day gives us a chance to celebrate Audubon’s commitment to protecting birds like the Great Lakes Piping Plover and places they need,” said Sarah Saunders, PhD., Quantitative Ecologist, National Audubon Society. “In the Great Lakes region, Piping Plovers are making a remarkable recovery thanks to efforts from many partners, volunteers, and the community. Without these efforts, we might have lost Great Lakes Piping Plovers forever. Our commitment to protecting rare wildlife ensures that communities can enjoy living side-by-side with the plovers for generations to come.”
One reason for the nation’s success in protecting wildlife is the passage, 45 years ago, of the federal Endangered Species Act. The Endangered Species Act has successfully prevented the extinction of hundreds of species, including the Bald Eagle, the Peregrine Falcon, Kirtland’s Warbler and the Whopping Crane.
“The strongest federal safeguard against the extinction of species in the United States is the Endangered Species Act, but we need to keep working to help strengthen this act and ensure the survival of our most vulnerable birds and wildlife,” said Marnie Urso, Policy Director for Audubon Great Lakes. “Policies like the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative are key to helping to restore habitats for shorebirds, like the endangered Piping Plover that now nests along all five Great Lakes once again.”
Great Lakes Piping Plover Nest Monitoring
Audubon chapters, volunteer networks, and the Great Lakes Piping Plover Conservation Team all coordinate nest monitoring at sites across the Great Lakes. Dedicated nest monitors keep close eyes on the Piping Plover pairs, their nests, and chicks to help ward off predators and other potential dangers, as well as educate beachgoers about the importance of giving birds space to nest and rest.
In Chicago, a team of over 200 monitors helped monitor the nests of plovers named Monty and Rose that nested at Montrose Beach. This effort was coordinated by a collaboration between the Chicago Audubon Society, Chicago Ornithological Society, and Illinois Ornithological Society. Thanks to the watchful eyes of volunteers, Monty and Rose were able to fledge three sets of chicks on a busy urban beach during the summers of 2019 – 2021. “Sadly, Monty recently died, but the charismatic bird and his story has brought inspiration and hope to many, and his success shows the lasting effects of advocacy and conservation in the Great Lakes region,” added Saunders.
Audubon Great Lakes is also coordinating monitoring of Piping Plovers in Lower Green Bay. Plovers have been nesting in the location since 2016 and the site is a critical breeding location in Wisconsin for the species. Audubon Great Lakes coordinates a team of monitors from USFWS, WDNR, UW-Green Bay and Northeast Wisconsin Audubon who make daily observations to gather knowledge about these birds, thereby increasing nest success and fledgling survival. Audubon also helps advocate for and educate about the species in Northeast Wisconsin.
In Michigan, Audubon Great Lakes is partnering with the USFWS, Michigan DNR, National Park Service and volunteers to educate beachgoers about piping plovers around high-use nesting sites at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lake Shore and the surrounding area this summer. To celebrate Endangered Species Day and the return of the Great Lakes piping plovers for this year’s breeding season, Audubon is hosting events at Platte Point Beach on May 21 and Leland Harbor on May 22. More information on the events can be found here.
Audubon Great Lakes and partners are encouraging the public to take the pledge to Share the Shore with these beach nesting birds which includes:
- Keep a safe distance from marked or fenced areas where birds are nesting
- Keep the beach clean by using proper receptacles or carrying out trash
- Keep dogs leashed and off nesting beaches
- Give birds 100 feet of space
For more information, photos or to set up an interview, please contact Nicole Minadeo, Nicole.email@example.com cell 419-308-4846
About Audubon Great Lakes
Audubon Great Lakes is a regional office of Audubon, learn more at gl.audubon.org and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow. Audubon works throughout the Americas using science, advocacy, education, and on-the-ground conservation. State programs, nature centers, chapters, and partners give Audubon an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire, and unite diverse communities in conservation action. A nonprofit conservation organization since 1905, Audubon believes in a world in which people and wildlife thrive.