biNG and YO YO…A match made at Hilton Head?
Two Great Lakes Piping Plovers were seen in October at Fish Haul Beach on Hilton Head Island, SC.
One is a male. (Of,bN:X,G) We call him biNG. He’s “named” for the bands on the lower part of his legs: b=light blue, N=brown, G=Green, “i” makes it possible to pronounce
The other is a female. (Of,YO:X,Y/O) We call her YO YO. She’s also “named” for her bands: Y=yellow, O=orange
Here are their stories as best we know them.
biNG hatched at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (SBDNL), MI in 2021 from a nest near the south boundary of the park. At the end of the summer, he headed south and chose Hilton Head Island as his winter home. In 2022 he flew back to SBDNL and established a territory a little north of where he hatched. He defended his chosen spot all summer but didn’t attract a mate. He then migrated back to his winter home at Hilton Head.
YO YO was raised in captivity in 2020 from an egg that was rescued at Silver Lake State Park, MI. The nest was located within the ORV-designated section of the park and would never have survived. After this clutch of eggs was rescued the adults quickly re-nested in a new, much safer location. Captive-rearing allows us to give a second chance to eggs that would otherwise be lost. (Read more about the process here.) Once YO YO hatched, grew and was flying well she was released back at Silver Lake State Park. She made her first migration south and, like biNG, chose Fish Haul Beach on Hilton Head Island as her winter home. In 2021 and 2022 she came north to SBDNL and nested on North Manitou Island in a different location with a different mate each year. She returned to Hilton Head every winter.
In April of 2023 biNG arrived at SBDNL on the 21st and established a new territory along Platte Bay, just north of his 2022 territory. YO YO was first seen with him on April 24th. By then they were already paired and doing tilt-display. They stayed together to successfully raise three chicks.
Piping Plovers seldom winter with their mates since the females usually migrate south several weeks before the males. Therefore it was unexpected that YO YO would join biNG on the SBDNL mainland in 2023, especially since she previously had successful nests on North Manitou Island.
Might biNG and YO YO have come north together to biNG’s preferred territory? Perhaps she was with him already on the 21st, but evaded detection. Did he have a way to “convince” her to join him rather than returning to her North Manitou territory?
There’s much yet to learn about plover communications.
Thank you to Kevin Brady for sending his report and photos to email@example.com