Piping Plovers will return to the Great Lakes soon

Piping Plovers, are expected to return to the dunes and shores of the Great Lakes in the coming weeks, according to Vince Cavalieri with the U.S. Fisheries and Wildlife Service.
Typically the first pairs show up on the week of April 6, with the rest of the flock in a few weeks.
Known for their clear, bell-like chirps and rarity, pairs of Piping Plovers are coveted by researchers and birdwatchers alike, Cavalieri said.
The bird’s raise their young among large dunes and open waterways, the species has been threatened in recent decades by humans searching for summertime recreation. After being listed as an endangered species in 1985, the population of Piping Plovers in the region continued to decline until 1990, when scientists estimated there were only a dozen pairs left. In the subsequent decades, researchers, conservationists and volunteers have been working to protect the Piping Plover from both man-made and natural threats.

Piping Plover

Each year, staff and volunteers survey the bird’s nesting areas, which includes Sleeping Bear Dunes and the Ludington State Park. Upon finding the nests, staff put a protective covering in place allowing the relatively small birds room to come and go, while keeping other animals out of the nest. Signs announcing the presence of Piping Plovers are also placed in an area so any humans are made aware of the nests.
To keep track of which birds come from where, Cavalieri said color-coordinated bands are placed on the animal’s feet. Any birds found with orange tags are known to originate from the Great Lakes.
The efforts to conserve the Great Lakes species means there are now approximately 70 pairs of Piping Plovers nesting in the region. Cavalieri said conservationists would like to see about 150 pairs.
“When we place the enclosures to protect the bird’s eggs, we see about a 90 percent hatch rate compared to 30 percent without,” Cavalieri said.
As long as volunteers help and have an interest in preserving the Piping Plover, Cavalieri is hopeful for their future.
If you are interested in learning more about the Piping Plover or would like to volunteer, contact the East Lansing U.S. Fisheries and Wildlife Services office at 517-351-2555.