They picked the beach equivalent of Times Square to mate and create a family.
With their inner pluck and some close monitoring from committed volunteers, two federally endangered Great Lakes piping plovers succeeded against all odds. At Montrose Beach in summer 2019, the parents (Monty and Rose) raised two healthy chicks, Chicago’s first fledged pair since 1955.
The village it took for this happy outcome included over 185 volunteers and a cooperative effort among a number of environmental agencies and organizations.* It was all hands on deck for several months while the plovers and monitors dealt with errant volleyballs, off-leash dogs, fireworks, beach flooding, and predatory birds—with the frenzy of the Air and Water Show thrown in for good measure.
The birding community hopes to see Chicago’s own piping plovers return next year. For all involved, the word that captures our shared moment is privilege—it was a privilege to witness and root for the hard work of “being bird” in an often harsh environment. We were all in, birds and humans flocking together.
*Chicago Ornithological Society, Illinois Ornithological Society, Chicago Audubon Society, Chicago Park District and their volunteer stewards, Illinois Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S.D.A. Wildlife Services, Montrose Lakefront Coalition, Chicago Police Department, and Lincoln Park Zoo.
Piping Plover Chick at Montrose Beach, 2019, by Ann Hetzel Gunkel