Monty, one half of a pair of beloved piping plovers that spent recent summers along the Lake Michigan shoreline in Chicago, died Friday at Montrose Beach, officials said.
“It is with great sadness that we confirm the passing of Monty, one of the Montrose Beach piping plovers,” said Irene Tostado, of the Chicago Park District.
Tamima Itani, of the Chicago Piping Plovers group, shared more details, saying Monty died Friday afternoon.
“He was observed gasping for air before dropping and passing away,” said Itani.
Monty captured the city’s heart when he and Rose, Great Lakes piping plovers, three years ago became the first of the endangered shorebirds to nest successfully in Chicago in decades.
The endangered pair, who became Chicago’s piping plover power couple, wrote Morgan Greene of the Chicago Tribune, all over Montrose Beach as their summer nesting spot, before flying south.
The love birds, individually weighing less than a stick of butter, went on to break records, fledge chicks and serve as symbols for a city as hopeful and hardscrabble birds who picked an urban beach to save their species.
“It’s a comeback story because they went way down in population and then they came back. It’s a great story of conservation, ”Patricia O’Donnell, a monitor for the plovers, said earlier. “But I got to tell you – it’s a love story.”
Monty was taken to Lincoln Park Zoo, where he will be tested. Results are expected in about a week, according to Itani.
Tweets began flooding social media Friday just after 6 pm
“We are saddened to share that today Monty passed away unexpectedly,” said a tweet from the official account for Chicago Piping Plover news and content. “We will share more as we learn more.”
Another message was posted by the Chicago Ornithological Society: “We are shocked and saddened to report that Monty the Piping Plover is no longer with us. We do not know as yet what happened, but he is currently being evaluated by professionals. ”
Monty had returned to Chicago last month, for his fourth summer.
“Monty and Rose captured our hearts in a way very few beings do,” Itani said Friday. “Monty will be very sorely missed.”
Chicago Tribune’s Morgan Greene contributed.