CHICAGO — Monty, one half of the beloved Piping Plover duo that stole the heart of Chicago and made Montrose Beach their home, has died, birders said.

Monty died on Friday. A bird watcher on the beach saw Monty breathing heavily; he stood up, took a few steps and collapsed, said Tamima Itani, a bird watcher who has been active in protecting Monty and his partner, Rose.

Monty’s body was taken to the Lincoln Park Zoo to determine what happened to him, Itani said. There will be a commemorative act in his honor, but the details have not yet been 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 through tears on Friday. The monitors gathered at Montrose Beach, “just wanting to be where he was.”

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Monty, the beloved Piping Plover, is seen on Montrose Beach in Uptown on April 23, 2022.

Monty was born in June 2017, making him just 5 years old, Itani said. Piping Plovers typically live to be 5 years old, Itani said, although he has seen some reach 16 years.

Itani said he’s also becoming less optimistic Rose, Monty’s longtime partner, will be back on the beach this year. Monty returned on 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 right now; It’s hard to tell.”

Monty and Rose stole the heart of Chicago when they first nested on 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 gathered around the plovers. A music festival that was supposed to take place in 2019 in Montrose Beach was canceled to ensure the birds were protected. Bird watchers regularly kept an eye on Monty and Rose on the beach and tried to make sure their eggs weren’t eaten by other creatures.

Monty and Rose successfully raised several baby chicks on the beach; at least one has settled nearby in Ohio and found a mate.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Monty, the beloved Piping Plover, is seen on Montrose Beach in Uptown on April 23, 2022.

“These are very rare birds,” Itani said. “We don’t get a chance to see a lot of them. And then they have such cute personalities, just because of the way they walk and carry themselves.”

People passing through Montrose lit up when they saw Monty, Rose and their chicks, Itani said.

“They just have a very sweet personality,” Itani said. “Monty had a lot, he had a lot of character. He was used to crowded beaches and navigated them very well. Sometimes he would literally come and land on the wall, not far from us, and he would show off.

“It was like he was the king of Montrose. He had so much personality.”

Documentaries and books were made about the birds, and people would gather on the beach to watch them, although the birders made a point of keeping people at a distance so the birds would be safe and not stressed.

“I think it’s an underdog story, for sure,” Bob Dolgan, a birder who made a documentary about the duo, said in April. “It is an endearing story. They are incredibly charismatic birds. They are tenacious, in their own way. Monty is a really beautiful father; Rose is a very tough mother. And I think people liked it because it’s such a unique story.”

Credit: Mike Roche/Provided
Monty the Great Lakes Piping Plover runs along Montrose Beach on April 23, 2022.

Chicagoans called the news of Monty’s death devastating and sent their condolences to birders who have passionately watched the plovers.

“Not an exaggeration, this is devastating,” one person wrote on Twitter. “These birds put a face on local environmental issues and really changed the way Chicagoans viewed our beaches and how they should be treated. One can only hope that we will be lucky enough to see another group of plovers soon.”

Chicago may see other Great Lakes Piping Plovers, Itani said. The city gets another two or three plovers that come to the area each year, he said.

“We certainly expect other Piping Plovers to come and establish a nest,” Itani said.

Those who wish to honor Monty’s life can donate to the Great Lakes Piping Plover recovery program, Itani said. Donations can be made online.

Credit: Chicago Park District/Tony Troche
The famous Piping Plovers Monty and Rose at Montrose Beach.

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