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Snowbirds Monty and Rose leave Montrose Beach; piping plover pair go south for winter

Monty and Rose, Chicago’s famous piping plovers, have migrated. Monty is in Texas while Rose flew to Florida. Their chicks remain in the Great Lakes area.

Monty the piping plover seen Aug. 13 on Montrose Beach before his long flight to Galveston, Texas.
Monty the piping plover seen Aug. 13 on Montrose Beach before his long flight to Galveston, Texas.
Tamima Itani

Monty, one half of the Montrose Beach piping plover pair, left Chicago on Saturday for sunny Texas.

By Sunday afternoon, he was on East Beach in Galveston, spotted by Kristen Vale, the Texas coastal program coordinator for American Birds Conservancy. The trek south is typical for piping plovers, an endangered species, as they seek warmer weather for the winter, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

But as for choosing that specific destination?

“We don’t know why he goes to Texas,” said Tamima Itani, vice president and treasurer of the Illinois Ornithological Society. “In general, the Great Lakes plovers go to Georgia, North and South Carolina, and other places down South. He took off on a north wind, though, which is really favorable for his flight.”

Winter migration is usually more dangerous for piping plovers during their early years, because they have less experience avoiding carnivorous raptors. As a veteran traveler, it appeared Monty had no trouble with the 1,100 mile flight, as he was spotted in Texas less than 53 hours after he was last seen in Chicago.

Rose, the plover that nested with Monty on Montrose Beach, has been seen in the Florida Anclote Keys, her usual winter spot, Itani said.

Monty and Rose don’t have tracking devices, but they do have leg bands, allowing bird watchers to identify them by the band’s color and number, then report sightings to wildlife conservation officials. That’s how Monty and Rose were confirmed to be in their new locations.

This year, the pair leaves behind chicks Siewka and Imani, who seem to be faring well in Chicago, the latter embarking on local expeditions to other beaches. Imani was seen on Waukegan Beach on Monday.

Beachgoers and birders can expect Monty and Rose to show up sometime in April 2022 on Montrose Beach, where they’ve returned to nest for the past three years.