Newsroom Midwest Region

Old Man Plover returns – right on time

May 4, 2017

At 15 years old, BO:X,g, also known as Old Man Plover, is the oldest Great Lake piping plover to return to its breeding grounds. Photo courtesy of Alice Van Zoeren.
At 15 years old, BO:X,g, also known as Old Man Plover, is the oldest Great Lakes piping plover to return to its breeding grounds.
Photo courtesy of Alice Van Zoeren.

He’s back! Old Man Plover, a Great Lakes piping plover also known as BO:X,g (his color band combination), has made it back to his breeding site once again at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore on Lake Michigan. BO:X,g is, by any standards, an old bird. At 15 years old, he has lived three times longer than the average age for a piping plover.

BO:X,g shows a remarkable fidelity not only to breeding and wintering sites but also to migration timing. Not only is he the oldest known Great Lakes Piping Plover to make it back to the breeding grounds, but this is the third year in a row that BO:X,g has arrived at his breeding grounds site exactly on April 13. (We have a fair bit of certainty about his arrival dates because Sleeping Bear Staff are frequently surveying this time of year.)

Thanks to biologists in South Carolina and birders in Ontario, we also know at least part of Old Man Plover’s migration story.  He was reported by Melissa Bimbi, one of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s piping plover wintering coordinators, from Bull’s Island, South Carolina, on March 27, beginning to molt into breeding plumage.  Birdwatchers spotted him again on April 11 at Port Dover, Ontario, near the famous migration hotspot of Long Point on Lake Erie.  He was spotted in the same location on April 12 and was seen until about 6:00 pm.  Just a little over 17 hours later, he was found by Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Staff at his normal breeding beach about 325 miles away!

Not only do people enjoy learning the individual story of this one remarkable bird, but by marking him and being able to keep track of him all of these years, scientists and wildlife managers have gained valuable knowledge about the natural history of Great Lakes Piping Plovers that will aid in the recovery of this beautiful and unique part of the Great Lake’s Natural Heritage.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov.

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