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The color and arrangement of bands help identify piping plovers and track their movements.  Photo courtesy of Dan Catlin/Virginia Tech.

The color and arrangement of bands help identify piping plovers and track their movements. Photo courtesy of Dan Catlin/Virginia Tech.

Great Lakes Piping Plover Found and Banded In The Bahamas

In recent years biologists have discovered that the Bahamas appear to be a very important wintering location for piping plovers. While most of the piping plovers that spend the winter on the sand flats of the Bahamas are likely from the Atlantic Coast, last week a team of biologists and researchers from the United States and the Bahamas made a cool discovery while banding piping plovers on Abaco Island. There the team which included individuals from Conserve Wildlife New Jersey, the Audubon Society, Virginia Tech, members of the Bahamas National Trust and the Service, found an ultra-rare Great Lakes piping plover. Band returns have shown that most Great Lakes plovers appear to winter in South Carolina, Georgia and Florida, but this find and a few other sightings of Great Lakes birds in the Bahamas has shown that these islands could also contain important winter habitat for the critically endangered Great Lakes population.

The researchers in the Bahamas immediately knew the bird was from the Great Lakes population because this piping plover had been banded as a chick on the shores of the Great Lakes by a team from the University of Minnesota headed by Francie Cuthbert. Plovers from the Great Lakes are always banded with an orange flag if they are adults or an upper orange band if it is a chick so that sightings from the migratory or wintering range can instantly be identified to the Great Lakes population.

After capture, researchers re-banded the Great Lakes plover with a new adult band combination and released it. The Great Lakes Piping Plover Conservation Team will be on the lookout for this bird, which will now be known by the band combination Of,YG:X,O when it returns – we hope - to Great Lakes beaches in April or May.

By Vince Cavalieri
East Lansing Michigan Ecological Services Field Office

Last updated: March 5, 2015