UPTOWN — When Monty and Rose landed in Chicago, many residents had never heard of a piping plover.
But after three years of nesting at Montrose Beach, Monty and Rose not only spread knowledge of their endangered species — they advanced conservation efforts in the heart of the city and brought joy to thousands in Chicago and beyond.
But Monty died at Montrose Beach this month after returning to his summer home for a fourth time. Rose has not been seen this summer and is feared dead, birders said.
The two birds and their legacy were honored at a ceremony Wednesday.
“They bucked the impossible and nested on the busiest of beaches,” said Tamima Itani, lead plover volunteer at Montrose Beach. “Thank you Monty and Rose for the grace, love, resilience or persistence you gifted us.”
Dozens gathered at Montrose Beach for the tribute. It was held near the birds’ favored nesting grounds, paying tribute to their contribution to conservation work and to the joy the tiny animals brought to the city. It also served as a “thank you” to the roughly 200 volunteers who watched over the plovers the past few years.
“These birds changed the whole city’s viewpoint on wildlife and wildlife conservation,” said Peter Tolzmann, who at 13 is the youngest member of the volunteer plover watchers group. “Being a part of that is really awesome.”
Monty and Rose stole Chicago’s heart when they first nested at Montrose Beach in 2019, becoming the first Great Lakes piping plovers to nest in the city since the ’50s. They returned in 2020 and 2021 to raise chicks.
The city rallied around the plovers. A music festival that was supposed to happen in 2019 at Montrose Beach was canceled to ensure the birds would be protected. At the suggestion of volunteers birders, the Chicago Park District added 3 acres of beachland to the protected dunes area at Montrose Harbor.
Bird watchers regularly kept guard over Monty and Rose at the beach and tried to ensure their eggs wouldn’t get eaten by other creatures.
Monty and Rose successfully fledged seven chicks at Montrose. That is a very successful series of mating seasons for plovers, and it is testament to the work the volunteers did to ensure their safety, said Louise Clemency, supervisor of the Chicago field office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Some of Monty and Rose’s chicks have gone on to make news of their own.
One of their chicks, Nish, last year nested on a beach near Toledo, Ohio, the first time plovers have nested in Ohio in more than 80 years. Nish and his mate reared four chicks last year.
Imani, born at Montrose Beach to Monty and Rose last year, returned to Montrose this week after a brief stop in Minnesota. The 1-year-old male plover remains at Montrose Beach, although he doesn’t yet have a mate.
The success of Monty and Rose’s family is due in part to the volunteer stewards. Gathered Wednesday at Montrose Beach, those volunteers pledged to keep advocating for ecological protection in Monty and Rose’s honor.
“We built this and they came,” said Leslie Borns, the lead steward of the Montrose dunes area for two decades. “I hope you will join us … in rededicating to that effort.”
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