Monty the piping plover died on Friday, authorities 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 shared more details, saying Monty died Friday afternoon.
“He was observed gasping for air before falling and passing away,” Itani said.
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 on Friday just after 6 p.m.
“We are saddened to share that today Monty passed away unexpectedly,” said a tweet from the Chicago Piping Plover’s official news and content account. “We’ll share more as we learn more.”
Monty had been back in Chicago since last month.
Another message was posted by the Chicago Ornithological Society: “We are shocked and saddened to announce that Monty the Piping Plover is no longer with us. We don’t know what happened yet, but it is currently being evaluated by professionals.
Monty captured the hearts of the city when three years ago he and Rose, Great Lakes Piping Plovers, became the first endangered shorebirds to successfully nest in Chicago in decades.
The endangered pair became the power pair of Chicago piping plovers, wrote Morgan Greene of the Chicago Tribune, choosing Montrose Beach as their summer nesting ground, before heading south for the winter.
The lovebirds, individually weighing less than a stick of butter, went on to break records, give birth to chicks and serve as symbols for a city full of hope and badass – two birds that chose a urban beach to save their species.
“It’s a comeback story because they went down a lot in population and then they came back. It’s a great conservation story,” Patricia O’Donnell, a plovers monitor, said earlier. “But I gotta tell you – it’s a love story.”
“Monty and Rose captured our hearts in a way that very few people do,” Itani said Friday. “Monty will be greatly missed.”
Morgan Greene of the Chicago Tribune contributed.