Good news today from Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore which released this photo of the first piping plover nest on South Manitou Island in Lake Michigan.
Plovers are on the federal endangered species list. Michigan and federal authorities have been working for years to help restore their populations here. Piping plovers were first listed in 1986. The population declined from several hundred breeding pair to just 17 breeding pair, according to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. The primary cause of their decline was hunting in the late 19th century and early 20th century until passage of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 put a halt to it.
Their populations began to recover but declined again in the 1950s due to habitat loss, predation, contaminants, high water levels and recreational activity. Plovers build small nests on sandy lake shores where they are often destroyed by people unaware of their presence. Their eggs are small and are easily mistaken for small rocks.
To help protect the birds during nesting season, state and federal government programs have employed volunteer piping plover patrols. Researchers report that the population has fluctuated between 12 and 25 breeding pairs, with most breeding in Michigan.