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piping plovers

Endangered plovers face new threat: snowy owls

Jun 26, 2018
A plover and her chicks.
USFWS

 

A new predator has emerged for a little shorebird in our region, the piping plover.

Snowy owls often spend time out on Great Lakes beaches in the winter. It’s a good habitat for them. But something unexpected happened this year.

Vince Cavalieri is the piping plover coordinator with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“It became very apparent early this year that there were a lot of snowy owls still being seen,” he says.

He says the owls hung around later than usual.

Piping plover
USFWS

Piping plovers are little shorebirds, and they're an endangered species in the Great Lakes region. But they’re making a comeback thanks to conservation efforts and even some heroics.

Piping plovers.
Roger Eriksson

Piping plovers are little white and gray shorebirds. You might’ve seen them running around on the beach.

Sarah Saunders is a post-doctoral researcher at Michigan State University.

“The majority of the piping plovers in the Great Lakes region nest at Sleeping Bear Dunes,” she says. “The chicks look like little fluffy cotton balls on toothpicks because their legs are really long and they’re very cute. And they make a very high pitched piping noise.”

Vince Cavalieri / US Fish and Wildlife Service

It may not feel like Spring, but the piping plovers are returning. 

A growing number of the endangered birds soon will return from their winter nests to their Michigan homes.

Piping plover
USFWS

RJ Wolcott of the Grand Rapids Press spoke with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Vince Cavalieri about the return of the piping plover.

The endangered birds winter along the Gulf of Mexico, the southern Atlantic coast and in the Caribbean. Cavalieri says breeding pairs will soon arrive along the coasts of the northern Great Lakes.