Researchers with Lincoln Park Zoo and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have determined a cause of death for Monty, the beloved Great Lakes piping plover who nested in Chicago along with his partner Rose for several years.
According to the researchers, who also partnered with the University of Illinois Zoological Pathology Program, Monty died as a result of a “severe fungal respiratory infection.”
The bird also developed laryngitis as a result of the infection, which restricted his airway, according to researchers.
Test samples indicated that Monty did not have a particularly-virulent strain of bird flu that has been circulating in populations of water fowl and domestic birds in recent months.
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Monty, along with his partner Rose, first launched themselves into stardom in 2019 when they nested at Chicago’s Montrose Beach. They hatched three chicks that year, and because of the location of their nest a popular music festival was canceled to help protect the animals.
Monty and Rose continued to return to Montrose Beach in 2020 and 2021, but this spring only Monty returned, according to researchers. The bird died a short time later.
Piping plovers are an endangered species, with researchers estimating that just 75 pairs of the birds currently live in the Great Lakes region.
This spring, a piping plover made a quick rest stop at Chicago’s Rainbow Beach, leading experts to hope that there are other places in the city that the birds could potentially build nests.