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Oldest Black-bellied plover in Western Hemisphere found in CT

Black-bellied Plover
Frank Schulenburg
Wikimedia Commons
Black-bellied Plover

Black-bellied plovers are one of the most common shorebirds on the East Coast. One discovered this fall in Milford, Connecticut now holds a new record — the oldest in the Western Hemisphere.

The bird was dead when it was spotted by a local birder. It washed up near a Milford Point sandbar with a band around its leg.

The U.S. Geological Service determined the band was placed in 2010 in neighboring Stratford. Experts say this means the plover was at least 14 years old — almost two years older than the previous oldest on record.

Tom Andersen with the Connecticut Audubon Society, said this is proof that the area provides an ideal habitat for these birds.

“The mouth of the Housatonic River — Stratford on one side and Milford on the other  — has hundreds, maybe thousands of acres of tidal marsh, mud flats and beach," he said. "And that's exactly the kind of places that black-bellied plovers and other species need to find the food they eat.” 

Tidal marshes near Milford Point, Conn.
Betsy Rice
Tidal marshes at Milford Point, Conn.

Site fidelity is common for the plovers, meaning they will return to the same location year after year. They nest in the Arctic, and then spend the fall through spring on East Coast beaches.

Andersen also said the discovery is a great example of citizen science at work.

“Bird science in general relies on people keeping their eyes open and observing and listening. That’s where much of the good bird data comes from," Anderson added.

The USGS encourages residents to report any bird band or auxiliary markers to their Bird Banding Laboratory, as long as it can be done safely. Those include colored leg bands, neck collars, radio transmitters, flags and tags.

Sabrina is host and producer of WSHU’s daily podcast After All Things. She also produces the climate podcast Higher Ground and other long-form news and music programs at the station. Sabrina spent two years as a WSHU fellow, working as a reporter and assisting with production of The Full Story.