2012 A Good Year for Great Lakes Piping Plovers
By Vince Cavalieri
Great Lakes Piping Plover Coordinator
East Lansing, Michigan
In 2012, endangered piping plovers in the Great Lakes experienced the third highest number of chicks fledged since the recovery program began. A total of 58 nesting pairs established 64 nests; from these nests, 193 chicks hatched and 121 chicks fledged in the wild. The year also marked the second highest ratio of chicks fledged per pair ever recorded for the program.
Locations with especially high fledge rates included Whitefish Point which fledged 11 out of 12 chicks; Tawas Point State Park, which fledged eight out of eight chicks; Grand Marais, with seven out of 10 chicks; and Sleeping Bear Dunes, which once more led the way with 45 chicks fledged.
Approximately 15 plover monitors were hired through various partner groups to monitor plovers at different locations throughout Michigan. Additionally, dozens of volunteers spent time assisting with different monitoring efforts. Where possible, protective exclosures are built around all the piping plover nests in the Great Lakes, and the nests are regularly monitored to protect them from disturbance and predators.
A research team from the University of Minnesota travels among all of our piping plover sites to band the chicks and adults. They also help locate and monitor nests, help at the captive rearing facility and conduct research on the piping plover population.
Piping Plover (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service photo)
Some highlights for the year include:
- Sleeping Bear Dunes has, by far, the largest concentration of breeding Great Lakes Piping Plovers. In 2012, 22 pairs nested at the park, roughly 38 percent of the entire Great Lakes population. With the help of Great Lakes Restoration Initiative dollars, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore was able to dedicate up to five staff, whose duties included piping plover monitoring during the 2012 breeding season, plus time for Law Enforcement to help with the effort. A nest on the Lakeshore’s South Manitou Island was the first recorded there since recovery efforts began.
- Although plovers have attempted to nest at Tawas Point several times in recent years, there has not been a successful nest at the park since the Great Lakes Piping Plover recovery program began. That changed in 2012 as two different pairs of Great Lakes piping plovers nested at Tawas Point State Park and fledged an excellent eight chicks out of eight eggs laid.
- Port Inland had two piping plover pairs in 2012 that initiated two nests; two chicks fledged, both from the same nest. Interestingly, the male from that nest was a plover from the Great Plains in Manitoba. We believe this is the first time a plover from one of the other two populations bred successfully in the Great Lakes.
- The Captive Rearing Facility, located at the University of Michigan Biological Station, near Pellston, Michigan, once again took in eggs and chicks that were abandoned due to weather, predation or some other factor. Dozens of volunteer zoo keepers from zoos across the country, including Disney’s Animal Kingdom, The National Zoo, The Detroit Zoo and many others help incubate eggs and raise chicks that were then released into the wild, at the end of the season, with other wild piping plovers.