CHICAGO — Monty, one half of the beloved duo of piping plovers that stole Chicago’s heartland and called Montrose Beach home, has died, ornithologists have said.
Monty died on Friday. A birdwatcher at the beach saw Monty breathing heavily; he got up, took a few steps and fell down, said Tamima Itani, an ornithologist who has been active in protecting Monty and his companion, Rose.
Monty’s body was taken to Lincoln Park Zoo to determine what happened to him, Itani said. There will be a memorial event in his honor, but details have yet to be finalized. Monty and Rose fans can follow the Group of Great Lakes Piping Plovers on Social Media for updates on the memorial.
“You know how dear he was to all of us,” Itani said in tears on Friday. The monitors gathered at Montrose Beach, “just wanting to be where he was”.
Monty hatched in June 2017, so he was just under 5 years old, Itani said. Piping plovers typically live to be 5 years old, Itani said, although she has seen some aging up to 16 years old.
Itani said she was also becoming less optimistic. Rose, Monty’s longtime girlfriend, will return to the beach this year. Monty returned April 21 after wintering in Texas, but birders have yet to see Rose in Chicago.
“There are still Great Lakes Piping Plovers coming back, but it’s getting late,” Itani said. “I’m scared – I don’t know at this stage; It’s hard to say.”
Monty and Rose stole the hearts of Chicago when they first nested at Montrose Beach in 2019, becoming the first Great Lakes Piping Plovers to nest in the city since the 1950s. They returned in 2020 and 2021 to raise chicks.
The city has gathered around the plovers. A music festival scheduled to take place in 2019 at Montrose Beach has been canceled to ensure the birds are protected. Bird watchers regularly watched Monty and Rose at the beach and tried to make sure their eggs wouldn’t be eaten by other creatures.
Monty and Rose successfully raised several broods of chicks at the beach; at least one settled nearby – in Ohio – and found a mate.
“These are very rare birds,” Itani said. “We don’t have the chance to see many of them. And then they have such cute personalities, just the way they walk and behave.
People stopping by Montrose would light up when they saw Monty, Rose and their chicks, Itani said.
“They just have really sweet personalities,” Itani said. “Monty had so much – he had so much character. He was used to busy beaches and navigated them very well. Sometimes he literally came to rest on the wall, not too far from us, and showed off.
“It was as if he was the King of Montrose. He just had so much personality.
Documentaries and books were made about the birds, and people would gather on the beach to watch them – even as birdwatchers tried to keep people away so the birds were safe and not stressed. .
“I think it’s an underdog story, of course,” said Bob Dolgan, an ornithologist who made a documentary about the duo, in April. “It’s an endearing story. They are incredibly charismatic birds. They are tenacious, in their own way. Monty is a very handsome father; Rose is a really tough mother. And I think people were just getting into it because it’s such a unique story.
Chicagoans called the news of Monty’s death devastating and sent their condolences to the birdwatchers who passionately watched the plovers.
“This is not an exaggeration, this is devastating,” one person wrote on Twitter. “These birds put a face to local environmental issues and truly changed the way Chicagoans perceived our beaches and how they should be treated. One can only hope that we will have the chance to see another soon group of plovers.
Chicago may see more Great Lakes piping plovers, Itani said. The city gets two to three more plovers who come to the area every year, she said.
“We’re definitely hoping more piping plovers will come and establish a nest,” Itani said.
Those wishing to honor Monty’s life can donate to the Great Lakes Piping Plover Recovery Program, Itani said. Donations can be made online.