UPTOWN — Chicago’s favorite pair of endangered birds are once again expecting.
The Great Lakes piping plover couple known as Monty and Rose have laid eggs at Montrose Beach for the second consecutive year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has announced. Four eggs have been spotted in the birds’ nest in the natural preserve area of Montrose Beach.
The eggs are expected to hatch around June 17.
Local wildlife officials and bird enthusiasts have been looking for the piping plover eggs after Monty and Rose were spotted at the North Side beach in early May.
On Friday, officials with the Fish and Wildlife Service spotted Monty and Rose sitting on three eggs in the nest they have made in the sand, said Louise Clemency, field supervisor for the for the federal agency’s Chicago office. A fourth egg was spotted in the nest Saturday.
After finding the eggs, a team from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources set a wire “exclosure” over the eggs, which allows Monty and Rose access to the nest but keeps out local predators like raccoons and skunks, Clemency said. Cameras were installed to monitor the nest.
Last summer marked the first time in more than 50 years that piping plovers, a federally protected species, chose to nest in city limits. Monty and Rose were first spotted in May 2019 at Montrose Beach, nesting at the popular lakefront park for the summer. Their choice to nest at the busy Montrose Beach set off a battle between environmentalists, beachgoers and promoters of a lakefront music festival.
Monty and Rose have nested further from the beach and shoreline than they did last year, a move that may prove to be beneficial, said Brad Semel, endangered species recovery specialist for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Predators have kept closer to the water and a jetty near the Montrose natural area while staying away from the nest.
The birds’ nesting efforts will also likely be aided by the city’s stay at home order and the closure of the lakefront.
Whereas last year required the closing of sand volleyball courts to keep the nest undisturbed, that will likely not be the case this year. Seagulls, a predator of plover eggs, have been roosting exclusively by the lakeshore in the absence of people, keeping away from the plover nest, Semel said.
“It could be great for the piping plovers,” said Josh Engel, an Uptown resident who gives birding tours around Chicago. “It’s safe to assume [the closure] is great for birds because they are so unbothered.”
The Great Lakes piping plover population, once down to less than 20 pairs, has rebounded thanks to recovery efforts and there are now about 70 breeding pairs.
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