Chicago Expands Protected Site For Endangered Shorebirds

CHICAGO (AP) — The Chicago Park District is adding about 3 acres (1.2 hectares) of Lake Michigan lakefront to a protected area set aside as nesting ground for an endangered shorebird.

The district's move means several sand volleyball courts used at the south end of Chicago's Montrose Beach will have to find a new home as the 12.8-acre (5.2-hectare) protected area of the Montrose Beach Dunes expands.

Conservationists and bird enthusiasts championed the expansion after a pair of piping plovers first nested at the site in 2019 and returned last year, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

The small shorebird is on a number of state endangered species lists and is listed as threatened at the federal level.

The rare birds' arrival at the site and subsequent nesting created a dispute between Chicago’s passionate birding community and organizers of MAMBY on the Beach — an outdoor concert festival that had been scheduled to take place near the site of the birds' nest in the summer of 2019. That c oncert was ultimately canceled.

The two piping plovers that nested there have produced three offspring. The birds, each with identifying leg bands, have been spotted in Florida, Texas and Georgia in recent months, said Leslie Borns, volunteer steward of the dunes.

The nesting pair is expected back at their same nesting grounds by the end of April, Borns said.

“This is huge, even the volleyball players are some of the biggest supporters of the plovers, and there are other places on the beach for volleyball. It doesn’t need to be played on a critical habitat of an endangered species,” Borns said.