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Happy 15th BRR-thday! 6/26/2021

15-year-old BRR.

BRR (Of,BR:X,R - His bands are: Left leg orange flag-“Of”, blue-“B”, red-“R”; right leg metal-“X”, red-“R”, though his red bands have faded) - hatched on 6/26/2006 at Sturgeon Bay, MI. He is the oldest Piping Plover currently living in the Great Lakes population. His mother, YOgs (YO:gX), was another very long-lived plover, surviving for 13 years. His grandfather was the once-famous BORX of Platte Point who lived to be 12. If BRR lives another year he will be tied with BOX-g for the oldest Great Lakes Piping Plover on record. The average life-span of a Piping Plover that survives to adulthood is 5 years.

BRR began nesting in 2007 at Ludington State Park, MI. After an unsuccessful summer during which he didn’t fledge any chicks, he moved in 2008 to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and established a territory on Platte Bay. That year he and his mate successfully raised 3 chicks.

BRR in 2008 on Platte Bay...only two years old.

Sometime between the 2007 and 2008 nesting seasons BRR lost the red band on his lower right leg. It was replaced in 2018.

From 2009-2014 he returned each summer to Platte Bay and with a succession of females raised either 3 or 4 chicks each year.

In 2015 BRR once again nested along Platte Bay, this time with Of,GG:X,Y (Who holds the Great Lakes Piping Plover migration speed record). The eggs from their first nest were broken open and eaten. Tracks around the nest indicated that a chipmunk was the predator. After this loss BRR and Of,GG:X,Y started a new nest near Otter Creek, but once again the eggs were taken, this time no predator tracks were present and the cause of loss remains a mystery.

BRR and Of,GG:X,Y in 2015

In 2016 he moved out to North Manitou Island where he has been ever since. For the past four years he has nested with the same female and, other than in 2020, they have had good success.

In 2020 he and his mate laid 5 eggs. This is unusual for a Piping Plover…most nests have only 4. Five eggs are difficult to fit under the incubating adult (see photo below) and don’t often do well. In this case the first two eggs hatched and for a couple of days the adults continued to incubate the other three eggs while their hatched chicks foraged around the nest. A coyote keyed in on the hatching nest and broke into the exclosure that protected the eggs, taking the chicks and remaining eggs. Luckily the adults were unharmed.

BRR travels each August to an island off the coast of South Carolina and spends his winter there. It’s not far from where BOX-g wintered for all of his 16 years.

Over the course of his 15 years BRR has fledged 30 chicks and is currently raising four chicks that are due to begin flying just days after his birthday…a very good birthday present indeed.

Update: All four of BRR's 2021 chicks learned to fly and are getting ready to head south.

BRR left his North Manitou Island territory on 7/8 and, until 7/12 was on the mainland of Sleeping Bear Dunes. On 7/14 he was reported to be on the coast of Virginia.

BRR in Virginia - 7-16-2021


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