Populations Rise for 2 Michigan Endangered Birds

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The Great Lakes piping plover and the Kirtland warlber, two endangered birds in Michigan, are being observed in record numbers this year due to the collaborative  conservation efforts of the Department of Natural Resources and various other partners. 

“To have both of these species reach record numbers this year shows what great partnerships can do for wildlife conservation over time,” says Keith Kintigh, DNR field operations manager.  

Piping plovers nest in three distinct populations in the northern United States and Canada, and winter mainly along the Gulf Coast. In the Great Lakes, they live near shorelines and beaches and will nest in sand with rocks, shells or sticks, which can be easily disturbed by beach-goers. 

In 1983, there were only 13 breeding pairs of Great Lakes piping plovers in Michigan. This year, more than 158 chicks have been banded in Michigan, Wisconsin and Canada, with more than 58 nests found in Michigan. Of those nests, 43 were in the northern Lower Peninsula and 15 in the Upper Peninsula. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore had the highest occurrence of nests in the region.

The Kirtland’s warbler, one of the rarest wood warblers in North America, nests mainly in young jack pine forests on public lands and winters in the Bahamas. 

In 1974 and 1987, the lowest survey numbers of Kirtland’s warblers were recorded, with only 167 singing males found. In 2015, biologists, researchers, and volunteers observed 2,365 singing males. In the 2013 census, 2,025 males were observed. This year, 2,307 singing males were found in 13 northern Lower Peninsula counties. 

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