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Record-setting bird found at CT's Milford Point

A band found by Chris Unsworth from the body of a Black-bellied Plover that was previously tagged by scientists.
Chris Unsworth
A band found by Chris Unsworth from the body of a Black-bellied Plover that was previously tagged by scientists.

Chris Unsworth was observing some ducks at a tidal lagoon at Milford Point this fall when he noticed the body of a bird with speckled, spangled plumage on the shoreline.

As the Cheshire man got closer, he saw it was the body of a Black-bellied Plover and it had on its leg a small aluminum bracelet. The bird had been banded by scientists.

"It's a bit like striking gold,” he said.

That's because finding a tagged bird is a rare experience, Unsworth said. The 66-year-old birder said that October day at Milford Point was only the third time he’s ever found one.

Black-bellied Plover. This is not a photo of the bird that was found.
Michael H Spivak / Getty Images
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Moment RF
Black-bellied Plover.

Finding the tag was special. But it was when the bird was tagged that was extraordinary.

Records show that the migratory bird had been tagged by a Connecticut researcher in 2010 when it was at least one year old, making the Black-bellied Plover at least 14 years old and the oldest one on record in the Western Hemisphere, according to the U.S. Geological Service and the CT Audubon Society.

"That's pretty remarkable for a bird that migrates up to the Arctic tundra to nest, migrates there and back each year," Unsworth said.

It's not known how the bird died, as there was no apparent injury. But Unsworth said due to the body’s good condition, it had clearly died recently.

The Connecticut Audubon Society said the fact that the bird was found only one mile from where it was tagged 13 years ago shows the ecological importance of the Milford Point region.

Jennifer Ahrens is a producer for Morning Edition. She spent 20+ years producing TV shows for CNN and ESPN. She joined Connecticut Public Media because it lets her report on her two passions, nature and animals.