Great Lakes see increase in piping plovers and cruise ships

The new episode of DPTV’s Great Lakes Now features the resurgence of an endangered shorebird and the cruise industry.

A pair of piping plovers peck and prowl. Photo credit: Turnstone Strategies via DPTV.

Piping plovers are making a comeback on the Great Lakes.

The federal government listed the tiny shorebirds as an endangered species in the region in the 1980s. Great Lakes Now chronicles their resurgence in the latest episode airing on Detroit Public Television.

Producer Annamarie Sysling says the plover population is growing.

“Scientists and experts who’ve been monitoring the plover population found that there were 150 fledglings born to 72 breeding pairs in 2022,” she says. “That is the biggest brood of fledglings since they were listed as federally endangered in 1986.”

48 of the 72 breeding pairs that produced fledglings were in Michigan. Fledglings are birds that live at least 23 days after hatching and learn to fly.

“There were 150 fledglings born to 72 breeding pairs in 2022. That’s the biggest brood since they were listed as federally endangered.” — Great Lakes Now producer Annamarie Sysling.

Sysling says part of the reason why their population dwindled is because they make their nests on the sand.

“The eggs are pretty easy to disturb, to steal, to damage,” she says. “And with so many people coming in, a lot of risk factors have been increasing and getting in the way of successful fledglings being born.”

Sysling says conservationists, scientists and bird lovers have put a lot of effort into saving the piping plover.

“Everything from monitoring, trying to create safe contained plover populations, to even putting little metal cages over the nests,” she says.

Cruisers flock to the Great Lakes

Besides more piping plovers, the Great Lakes are also seeing a boom in the cruise industry. Sysling says the summer of 2022 set a record for cruise ships on the Great Lakes.

“That meant a lot more tourists coming to the region, stopping off in small towns and larger cities,” she says. “Estimates indicate nearly 20,000 people will cruise the Great Lakes this year.”

Related: Great Lakes Now exposes coal ash threat

Sysling produces a segment for Great Lakes Now called “The Catch.” In the latest episode, she reports on the impact of land use around Traverse City and the discovery of a 3,000-year-0ld canoe in Madison, Wisconsin’s Lake Mendota.

Great Lakes Now airs Wednesday, Oct. 26 at 7:30 p.m. on Detroit Public Television, channel 56.

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  • Pat Batcheller
    Pat Batcheller is a host and Senior News Editor for 101.9 WDET, presenting local news, traffic and weather updates during Morning Edition. He is an amateur musician.