Book-funded Conservation Project

Determining the fate of captive-reared Piping Plover chicks upon release

The net proceeds from the sale of Monty and Rose Nest at Montrose will be donated to the University of Minnesota Foundation to enable research into the short-term fate of released captive-reared Piping Plover chicks.

Each season, Piping Plover eggs are rescued from Piping Plover nests that are abandoned, due to the loss of one of the adults to predation, or due to nest wash-out because of high water.  Rescued eggs are rushed to the University of Michigan Biological Station near Pellston, MI where the Detroit Zoo manages a captive rearing facility for Great Lakes Piping Plovers.  Of note, Monty’s and Rose’s eggs from their 2018 Waukegan Beach parking lot nest were taken to the Pellston facility and one chick hatched, was banded and released.

The program has been very successful at hatching and releasing chicks into the wild, however only a small percentage of chicks are subsequently sighted.  At release sites where monitors are present, monitors are able to observe some of the chicks for longer than a month, whereas other chicks are released one day and never seen again. For example, in 2020, 39 chicks were released, but only 12 were reported from their wintering grounds (there are likely more on wintering grounds that have not been reported).  Monty’s and Rose’s chick that hatched in captivity was never re-sighted after release.  What happens to these chicks?  We really need to better know how release-ready they are when they are released.

Dr. Francesca Cuthbert, Distinguished Teaching Professor, Department of Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology at the University of Minnesota, and the foremost authority on Great Lakes Piping Plovers, is proposing to tag the captive-reared chicks with small GPS tags to track released chicks at the release sites and determine their short-term fate.  The GPS tags are light-weight and require a small and portable tower for detection.  These trackers would provide more specific information and inform the Great Lakes Piping Plover team on how to possibly better prepare chicks for the wild.  The study would take place during the 2022 nesting season.

Anyone wishing to make an additional contribution to this research effort can do so by visiting this link:  https://z.umn.edu/pipingplover.

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