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By Sydney Shepherd, Ontario Piping Plover Conservation Technician, Birds Canada

The 2022 Piping Plover nesting season in Ontario is nearly halfway through. While we wait to see how the season unfolds, let’s take a moment to catch up with the chicks that hatched last year during the 2021 nesting season.

The 2021 season saw successful nests at Darlington Provincial Park, Wasaga Beach Provincial Park, and Tiny Township. Across these three Ontario nesting locations, nine Piping Plover chicks fledged. That may not sound like very many, but for this Species at Risk, every chick fledged represents the hard-won success of conservation efforts.

Four out of Ontario’s nine 2021 chicks, at Darlington Provincial Park. Photo by Tom St-Jean.

You might be asking, “How do you know where individual birds end up?” Well, a few days after hatching, chicks are colour banded. They all receive a USGS aluminium band and an orange Great Lakes band on the upper part of their legs, and one or more flashy colour bands on the lower part. Each nest or “brood” receives a matching colour combination, and each individual is given a unique combination of coloured dots on their orange Great Lakes bands and tiny numbers on their lower colour bands. Since the Piping Plover is a migratory species, we rely on folks across the continent to keep an eye out for these birds and help us track their location. If you see a Piping Plover in Ontario, you can report its bands to ontarioplovers@birdscanada.org. Be sure to give the birds lots of space, using a pair of binoculars or a zoom camera lens to see the bands.

So, where are the chicks that hatched in 2021 now? We’ll break it down beach-by-beach.

Darlington Provincial Park

In 2021, power couple Blue and Ms. Howard boasted a 100% success rate, hatching four out of four eggs and raising all four to fledge and migrate! “Yellow Dot” was reported in Georgia during her first winter. Now, “Yellow Dot” has received the nickname “Darling” and is currently the mother of our 2022 Presqu’ile Provincial Park nest. We love the name “Darling”, picked by our lovely volunteers as a way to honour her home beach!

Darlington Provincial Park’s “Yellow Dot” as a fledgling. Now at Presqu’ile Provincial Park, this bird is a mother and has been nicknamed “Darling”. Photo by Sydney Shepherd.
“Darling” on the shores of her nesting beach, Presqu’ile Provincial Park, in 2022. Photo by Phil Lawrence.

Wasaga Beach Provincial Park

Wasaga Beach parents Fudge and Pepa hatched three out of their four eggs, and raised all three to fledge! The “Red Dot” chick from this nest has returned to the shores of Ontario, found a mate, and is currently raising chicks of his own! “Red Dot” has since been nicknamed “Saga” as an ode to his home beach and is currently nesting at Presqu’ile Provincial Park. “Green Dot” from this nest was spotted in late August on the shores of North Carolina. This bird later stopped at both Presqu’ile Provincial Park and Wasaga Provincial Park, looking for a mate. While Green Dot didn’t find a mate this season, hopefully they’ll return again next season for another Ontario attempt!

 “Red Dot”, hatched at Wasaga Beach, is now nicknamed “Saga” and has been spending time at Presqu’ile Provincial Park in spring 2022. Photo by Phil Lawrence.

Tiny Township

The Tiny Township pair, Flash and Mrs. Sunshine, laid two eggs in 2021, hatching and raising both chicks to fledge. “Red Dot” has returned to Ontario after a long winter down south and has gained the nickname “Ollie”. He is currently nesting at our undisclosed location and is proving to be a very protective father. 

2021 Tiny Township fledgling, “Red Dot”, is now named “Ollie” and is currently raising their chicks at an undisclosed location. Photo by Hannah Stockford.

If you’re keeping track, that means that four out of nine 2021 fledglings have been sighted again in 2022! With a 44% survival rate, Ontario’s fledglings did exceptionally well! This success isn’t possible without the support of beach goers sharing the shores with the nesting families, allowing our chicks to grow strong. Thank you to all the supporters, partners, and volunteers of the Ontario Piping Plover Conservation Program as well for your valuable contributions on behalf of these Endangered birds!

There have been five Piping Plover nests in Ontario so far in 2022. Across these five nests, seven out of the ten parents were hatched and raised on Ontario beaches. It’s super exciting to see the success of our Ontario birds across the years. To see how the 2022 Piping Plover season unfolds, be sure to follow @ontarioplovers on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. 

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