The 1,000-Mile Great Lakes Adventures

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

2017 is Record Year for Great Lakes Piping Plovers

I once spent a week with piping plovers.

Great Lakes Piping Plover with colorful leg bands

This small shorebird is endangered, so the population is monitored during nesting season. 
I volunteered to help monitor the population nesting on North Manitou Island as part of my 

Piping Plover on the edge of Lake Michigan

At the lowest point in the 1980s, the population of this diminutive bird had dwindled to just 13 nesting pairs.

Scoping to identify individual plovers

Keeping track of the birds was a meticulous and difficult task. Each bird has a unique set of colorful bands on its legs and that code had to be deciphered in order to know the identity of each individual bird.  

Piping Plover nest 

Putting a protective cage around nests is the best way to keep predators from stealing the eggs.

Protective netting around a nest

2017 was a milestone year for these little birds as a record 76 breeding pairs were recorded this summer.

And, it was the first year that this bird nested on all five Great Lakes since 1955. The Fish and Wildlife Service called this "a remarkable development for the recovery program."

Nesting areas are restricted and protected

These little birds still choose Michigan's Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (including the Manitou Islands) as their primary nesting site. This year a record 41 pairs nested there.

Tiny plover tracks

Learn more about this record year HERE.