Bird experts are curious to see how shutdowns brought on by the pandemic will affect endangered shorebirds, particularly the first pair of plovers to nest successfully in Chicago in decades.
Ornithologists are trying to adjust to a plover summer during the coronavirus outbreak, the Chicago Tribune reported.
“We did so much planning over the winter, discussing how to prepare for this year,” said Carl Giometti, former president of the Chicago Ornithological Society. “We did not take into account that there would be a global pandemic.”
Some plovers have been spotted along the Lake Michigan shoreline, giving fans hope that Monty and Rose will come. Last summer, the couple fledged two chicks at Montrose Beach.
Plovers usually return to places where they’ve successfully nested. But Monty and Rose have yet to appear.
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Chicago Park District are among those anticipating the birds’ return.
“I saw my first plover at Waukegan on Sunday, and all of a sudden, it’s just such a happy thing to happen in the midst of all of this,” said Tamima Itani, of the Illinois Ornithological Society. “It’s kind of like, life continues, somehow.”
If Monty and Rose show up and the lakefront is closed, a nesting season without beach goers could lead to fledgling success. If large groups of people are allowed back to the lake after courting begins, the plovers may be in trouble.
Noise pollution also affects nesting, so some areas may be welcoming.
Empty beaches may specifically help the plovers’ survival and reproduction, said Brad Semel, an endangered species recovery specialist with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Birds in busy areas pick up body weight while intruding on walkers and dogs. Fewer disturbances could be an advantage.
But the birds may have benefited from the crowds last year.
“It really is kind of a double-edged sword,” Semel said. “Because in previous years we’ve had almost instantaneous reports of where these plovers are because there are just so many bird watchers.”