Chicago, IL

The latest update for Chicago's favorite beach birds, Monty and Rose

Jennifer Geer

A balloon scare, a chick naming contest, and four eggs in the nest. Much has been happening on Montrose Beach since the mated pair of Piping Plovers returned to Chicago for the third summer in a row.

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A piping plover with its chicks (2013)(NPS Climate Change Response/Public domain/Wikimedia Commons)

Monty and Rose, an endangered pair of Great Lakes Piping Plovers, caught the attention of Chicago bird lovers when they became the first pair to successfully raise chicks on a Chicago beach in decades.

Piping Plovers were once plentiful around the Great Lakes, but due to human encroachment on their nesting grounds and the fact that they were mercilessly hunted for their feathers for women's hats, the little birds were almost rendered extinct.

Thanks to the hard work of conservationists and bird lovers, there are now about 70 pairs of mated birds in the Great Lakes. And the natural dunes area where Monty and Rose raise their young has recently been expanded.

A love story between two birds

Monty and Rose migrate over 2,000 miles every year to spend their summer at Montrose Beach together. This year, Rose returned first, and Monty followed the next day.

Back in 2019, their first summer in Chicago, they successfully raised two chicks. Last year, with the pandemic raging, they had the beach mainly to themselves and raised three fledglings.

Bird experts follow the birds by tracking their unique leg bands. Monty spent his winter in Texas, and Rose was in Florida.

The three chicks from last summer were sighted in the south, and bird watchers have been eagerly waiting to see if they show up in the Great Lakes this season.

Recently, one of the baby chicks was spotted at the Howard Marsh Metropark in Toledo, Ohio. Francie Cuthbert, professor in the Department of Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology at the University of Minnesota told the Chicago Tribune, "For all three of those chicks to show up would be pretty exceptional."

The balloon incident

People may love balloons, but they are deadly to wildlife. On May 17th, surveillance cameras watching Monty and Rose's nest caught sight of a balloon fluttering against their protective enclosure. The four eggs sat in their nest abandoned, while Monty and Rose were nowhere to be seen.

A volunteer removed the balloon as quickly as possible, and the birds were able to return to their nest. We don't know yet if any damage was done to the eggs during this time when they were exposed to the elements.

Additional mylar balloons were collected along Montrose Beach that day. Balloons pose a threat to wildlife by scaring birds away from nesting sites. Birds can also get their legs entangled in balloons, and as balloons break down into microplastics, birds and animals often ingest it thinking it's food.

Don't let your balloons go, or better yet, find another way to celebrate. Even biodegradable balloons can take years to break down. And they can still get entangled in animals or block their digestive tracks when they ingest them.

A naming contest for the baby birds

Last summer, Monty and Rose's chicks' names were chosen by a selection panel to represent Chicago's diverse communities. Last year's baby birds were named, Hazel, Esperanza, and Nish.

For 2021, the Illinois Ornithological Society (IOS), Chicago Ornithological Society (COS), and Chicago Audubon Society (CAS) have invited the public to enter a Chicks Naming Contest.

You can learn more about the contest and submit your names here.

What will happen next?

It's never a dull moment with Monty and Rose. Patricia O’Donnell, a monitor for the plovers, told the Chicago Tribune, "Another year, another breeding season. What drama will unfold? There’s always drama around them.”

You can keep up with the latest news by following updates on their blog. Or follow Monty and Rose on Twitter.

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