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After 5-month stay in Oscoda, rare South American bird disappears

Southern Lapwing close-up
Jason Shaw
/
Courtesy
The vagrant southern lapwing appeared in Oscoda in late May.

For the last five months, Oscoda has been home to a rare South American bird. The bird, which drew crowds from across the country, has now disappeared as mysteriously as it first arrived.

The Southern lapwing has only been spotted a couple of times in North America - and none of those sightings were ever officially confirmed.

So when the lapwing appeared in Oscoda this spring, hundreds of people from across the country flocked to catch a glimpse of the little bird.

Jason Shaw is a birder and photographer in Oscoda. He kayaked out to Cedar Lake every week to check on the visitor.

“It was good to see it every time, like seeing an old friend,” Shaw said.

But sometime in Mid-November after a snowstorm, the bird vanished from its usual spot. Shaw said the bird looked healthy when he last saw it in November, but he knew it wouldn’t last much longer in a Michigan winter.

“I’d like to say that it got swept up in a storm and rode the wind south, but I still think it’s in the area. Most likely, it’s unfortunate, but Mother Nature’s taken a toll on it.”

southern lapwing in frost
Jason Shaw
/
Courtesy

The bird was spotted last Nov. 16 on Van Etten Lake. Shaw said the community is still keeping a lookout for the bird, but he said it’s likely the end of the lapwing’s journey.

“It’ll definitely be talked about for the next few years, just the big event of having some bird that was really lost, come and land in Oscoda, in Michigan," Shaw said.

The Michigan Bird Records Committee will review the case next year to determine how the non-migratory bird arrived. If the committee rules the bird is a "natural vagrant" and arrived without human intervention, it will be the first confirmed sighting of the southern lapwing in North America - and past sightings may be re-evaluated.

More sightings of the lapwing may indicate the species' range is expanding, according to a representative from the American Birding Association.

silhouette of southern lapwing
Jason Shaw
/
Courtesy

Teresa Homsi is an environmental reporter and Report for America Corp Member based in northern Michigan for WCMU. She is covering rural environmental issues, public health and Michigan commerce. Homsi has a bachelor’s from Central Michigan University in environmental studies, journalism and anthropology. During her undergraduate, she was a beat reporter for CMU’s student newspaper Central Michigan Life and interned for the Huron Daily Tribune. She has also interned for the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy in the superfund section. *Report for America is a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms, more info at https://www.reportforamerica.org/
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