The piping plover has nested successfully in Manitoba for the first time in six years, raising hopes the endangered shorebird could return to the province in greater numbers.
A piping plover nest discovered on private land in June yielded three eggs, all of which wound up hatching, said Nicole Firlotte, manager of biodiversity, habitat and endangered species for Manitoba Sustainable Development.
The last successful fledging by the species observed in Manitoba took place in 2010, when a plover nested on the sandspit south of Grand Marais, on the east side of Lake Winnipeg's southern basin. A nest observed in 2012 at Whitewater Lake in southwestern Manitoba failed to hatch eggs.
The successful fledging this summer is significant, said Firlotte, who wouldn't divulge the location of the nest due to the sensitivity surrounding the species.
"When we found out about these birds, we kept the information very close to our vest and wanted to protect these birds and do everything to ensure their success," she said in a telephone interview on Friday.
A fence and exclosure was erected around the nest to prevent it from getting trampled by people as well as predation by gulls, Firlotte said.
Piping plover nests have become uncommon across the northern range of the shorebird's summer habitat in recent decades. High water hampers the plover's ability to nest because it tends to favour sandy beaches.
Extensive flooding in Manitoba in 2011 did not help the situation, said Firlotte, who called this summer's successful nest exciting.
"We're very hopeful these birds will come back next year and continue to nest. They've had success," she said. "We're very hopeful that they had a good time here in Manitoba."
Firlotte said it's possible the nest was a second-effort attempt by plovers, who usually lay four eggs earlier in the season. She also said it's possible there are other piping plover nests elsewhere in Manitoba.
"There could be plovers in Manitoba that are just in areas that are not accessible for us to watch," she said.
Piping plovers are often mistaken for kildeer, which are not endangered. Firlotte said a positive identification took place before this summer's nest was protected.