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Piping Plovers returning to Gulf Coast

Lauren DinanContributed by Lauren Dinan, Nongame Bird Biologist

After spending the last three months nesting here in Nebraska, Piping Plovers have migrated south. Several of our lower Platte River plovers have already been re-sighted at their wintering sites along the Gulf Coast. These observations include a re-sighting of Erwin, our famous Piping Plover.  Erwin is famous because he has been observed numerous times in winter in Florida. Erwin was banded as a three-day old chick at a lakeshore housing development in Dodge County, Nebraska, in June 2011.  With his return on August 7th, it marks the fourth consecutive year at Bunche Beach near Fort Myers, Florida.

Erwin was recently observed along the shoreline at Bunche Beach near Fort Myers, Florida. Photo taken by Gail Campbell on 7 August 2014.

Piping Plovers do not lollygag or dawdle when it comes to their southbound migration.  The first lower Platte River Piping Plover to return to the Gulf Coast this year was observed on July 21st at Honeymoon Island State Park, Florida. This plover was originally banded at a sand and gravel mine in Saunders County, Nebraska, as a chick in June 2012. This is the second year this plover has wintered at Honeymoon Island State Park, Florida.

Honeymoon Island Plover
Lower Platte River Plover observed at Honeymoon Island State Park, Florida, on 21 July 2014.  Photo taken by Danny Sauvageau.

The plover pictured below was originally banded along the lower Platte River in May 2010 and returned to the lower Platte River the last four years in a row. This summer this plover successfully nested and fledged two young plovers. This plover was last observed in Nebraska on June 30th and was observed at Elmer’s Island, Louisiana, on July 23th.

Louisiana Piping Plover
Piping Plover re-captured on its’ nest at a lakeshore housing development in Dodge County, Nebraska on 29 May 2014. A few months later this plover was observed in Louisiana.

So far, we have received reports of six lower Platte River plovers that have safely made it to the Gulf Coast for the winter. Without question, we hope many more will show up in the coming months as we transition into the fall and winter months.

Nongame Bird Blog

About Joel Jorgensen

Joel Jorgensen is a Nebraska native and he has been interested in birds just about as long as he has been breathing. He has been NGPC’s Nongame Bird Program Manager for eight years and he works on a array of monitoring, research, regulatory and conservation issues. Nongame birds are the 400 or so species that are not hunted and include the Whooping Crane, Least Tern, Piping Plover, Bald Eagle, and Peregrine Falcon. When not working, he enjoys birding.

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