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Detroit Zoo Provides a Helping Hand to Abandoned Plover Chicks

Posted By : The Animal Facts Editorial Team

Date: August 29, 2020 11:40 pm

detroit zoo piping ploversdetroit zoo piping plovers

The Great Lakes piping plover chicks being raised at the zoo

Photo Credit: Detroit Zoo

The Detroit Zoological Society has marked the most successful year in their 20 year captive rearing project for Great Lakes piping plovers.

Zoo staff were delighted to release 39 zoo reared piping plovers in to Northern Michigan. As part of the program piping plover eggs which have been abandoned by their parents are collected and taken for artificial rearing before being released back to the wild.

“It’s a bittersweet moment,” said Bonnie Van Dam, associate bird curator for the Detroit Zoological Society. “When you’re hatching the eggs and caring for the baby plovers, you get to know them individually — and it’s so exciting to watch them head into the wild knowing they will help bolster the population of this incredible bird.”

detroit zoo piping plovers

The Great Lakes piping plover chicks being raised at the zoo

Photo Credit: Detroit Zoo

The Detroit Zoological Society (DZS) program is funded by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and forms part of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which was established in 2009 by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

This year the team had to be adaptable to ensure the program was a success. Normally they would incubate the chicks at the captive rearing facility at the University of Michigan’s Biological Station in Pellston, Michigan. This year due to the ongoing pandemic this work was carried out at Detroit Zoo to prevent staff needing to travel to the University.

detroit zoo piping plovers

The Great Lakes piping plover chicks being raised at the zoo

Photo Credit: Detroit Zoo

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“We couldn’t let the pandemic prevent the rescue and rearing of these endangered birds. So, at the request of the USFWS, abandoned eggs were brought to the Detroit Zoo this year for incubation and rearing. The plovers were then sent to the Biological Station, where the birds were able to get more acclimated with their natural environment prior to their release,” said Van Dam.

One of the most incredible stories from this year’s program is that of three eggs and one chick which had already hatched which were abandoned during a storm. Their mother was killed by a coyote and dad flew away. Their only chance at survival was the salvage-rearing program.

“We were able to pick them up from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, care for them and monitor them closely. Three out of the four chicks survived and were later released. Those are the stories that stick with you,” said Van Dam.

detroit zoo piping plovers

The Great Lakes piping plover chicks being raised at the zoo

Photo Credit: Detroit Zoo

Since the piping plover salvage-rearing program was established in 2001, 299 captive reared birds have been released.

Learn more about Detroit Zoo on their website – Detroit Zoo

Video Footage Courtesy: Detroit Zoo

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