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First Great Lakes Piping Plover Spotted Wintering in Cuba
Midwest Region, March 15, 2016
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The Great Lakes piping plover Of,RL:X,b seen at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in 2015.  She was spotted on the northern coast of Cuba in early 2016, making her the first critically endangered Great Lakes piping plover known to winter in Cuba.
The Great Lakes piping plover Of,RL:X,b seen at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in 2015. She was spotted on the northern coast of Cuba in early 2016, making her the first critically endangered Great Lakes piping plover known to winter in Cuba. - Photo Credit: Alice Van Zoeren

For the first time ever, a rare Great Lakes piping plover has been spotted spending the winter in Cuba. Typically Great Lakes piping plovers winter in tidal inlets along the coasts of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida, though a handful have been reported wintering in the Bahamas and also for the first time ever, in Cancun, Mexico, this winter.

 

Great Lakes piping plovers are one of the most endangered species in the region, numbering 75 pairs in 2015. While this is still critically endangered, conservation efforts by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, Michigan Department of Natural Resources and other conservation partners have helped this unique population of piping plovers recover from only about15 pairs at the time they were added to the federal endangered species list in 1986.

Great Lakes piping plovers have strong site fidelity in the winter as well as in the summer, so they usually return to the same places season after season.

Nearly 100 percent of Great Lakes piping plovers are banded. This helps researchers and biologists learn more about the plovers and helps us protect them. The plover spotted in Cuba is known as Of,RL:X,b which refers to her band combination (in her case she has a small orange flag on her upper left leg with red and black bands on the lower left leg and then a USGS metal band on her upper right leg and a light blue band on her lower right leg). Generally all Great Lakes piping plovers are referred to by their band combination.

Of,RL:X,b is relatively old for a piping plover; she is 9 years old now and was hatched on North Manitou Island at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in 2007. She has been nesting at Platte Point at Sleeping Bear Dunes every season since 2008. The oldest Great Lakes piping plover ever recorded was 14 years old, but most only live 5 to6 years, so Of,RL:X,b is definitely on the older side for a plover.

She has been a "good mom" and has successfully raised 14 plover chicks during this time, and so has contributed significantly to plover recovery. She should soon leave the beaches of Cuba on her northward migration to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore for another breeding season along the shores of Lake Michigan!


Contact Info: Vince Cavalieri, 517-351-5362, vincent_cavalieri@fws.gov



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