– A conservationist group is encouraging the public to stay away from some areas of Duluth's Park Point beach, after two endangered piping plovers were spotted there earlier in May.

The St. Louis River Alliance hopes the sighting means that the birds may nest in the area for the first time in 30 years. The birds were seen on May. 5.

"When we see two of them on our beach here, it's a pretty big deal, because generally we will see one for a couple of days, and then it will leave," said Kris Eilers, of the St. Louis River Alliance.

The piping plover is a small bird, about the size of a robin, with a black band on its forehead and an orange beak and legs. The birds nest on open beaches around the Great Lakes, but the development of shoreline has reduced their habitat.

In 1990, there were only 12 nesting pairs of piping plovers. That number is at 70 now — in Michigan, Wisconsin and Canada.

Eilers said the two birds seen in Duluth could be waiting for mates.

"They're very vulnerable," Eilers said. "They like to nest right where human development is and right where we like to enjoy the beach."

The group and the city of Duluth are asking the public to stay away from the area until the nesting season ends in mid-June. They are also asking that dogs be leashed.

"Right now, these next couple of weeks are really, extremely critical," Eilers said. "We can learn to live alongside of this rare species and give them some space."

Associated Press