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Two piping plover chicks missing, likely dead

The first chick went missing Saturday afternoon, while the second was last seen Monday. Both were born to Monty and Rose, the piping plover couple that returned to Montrose Beach to nest this year.

Piping plover mates Rose (left) and Monty walk near the area sectioned off for the endangered species on Montrose Beach on the North Side, Wednesday morning, April 28, 2021.
Piping plover mates Rose (left) and Monty are nesting at Montrose Beach again this year, but have lost eggs and, now, apparently two of their chicks to predators.
Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times file

Chicago’s beloved Piping Plovers Monty and Rose, who live in the Montrose Beach Dunes Natural Area, lost two of their four chicks this week.

The first chick went missing Saturday afternoon, while the second was last seen Monday.

“The best way I can put it Is we have stopped seeing them, so we don’t know for sure what has happened to them,” said Louise Clemency, a field supervisor for the Chicago office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “As they become more mobile and adventuresome and use different parts of the habitat, the volunteer monitors often can’t see all of the chicks at once, so it is difficult to know how many we are seeing.”

However, it is likely both chicks fell victim to some of the many predators in the area, such as hawks, falcons or merlins, she said. Earlier this year, the plovers’ nest was attacked by a skunk which also ate all four eggs inside.

It is hard to tell the chicks apart when they’re so young, although it has been confirmed one of the two remaining chicks is the one that had hatched earlier this month at the Lincoln Park Zoo, Clemency said.

A naming ceremony for the two surviving chicks is scheduled for 5 p.m. Friday. It will be live-streamed on Facebook.

A piping plover hatched at Lincoln Park Zoo on Saturday, July 10, 2021.
A piping plover hatched at Lincoln Park Zoo in July.
Sunny Nelson/Lincoln Park Zoo

While it will be easier for Monty and Rose to keep an eye on their two remaining chicks, there’s still reason for concern.

“We are always worried about the chicks, to be honest, and predation remains the biggest threat to them at this point,” Clemency said.

The loss of two of the chicks is not unexpected, and Piping Plovers hatch so many eggs because they know most won’t make it, said Judy Pollock, president of the Chicago Audubon Society.

“There are so many dangers to these little birds,” Pollock said. “If these two make it, Monty and Rose will already be beating the odds.”