Amid the devastation of Hurricane Michael along Florida's Panhandle, experts say there's a ray of hope: a once imperiled bird is enjoying a renaissance.
There are an estimated 225 to 250 breeding pairs of snowy plover in Florida. The majority of the state's threatened species live in the Panhandle. The snowy plover has struggled to survive as its habitat has succumbed to development and overgrown vegetation.
But when Category 5 Hurricane Michael washed ashore last October it created the sparsely vegetated conditions the birds prefer.
Sixty-eight snowy plovers were successfully fledged this year on about a 40-mile stretch from Port St. Joe to St. Andrews State Park. That's up from just 12 successful fledglings in 2018.
The Palm Beach Post reports the last time plover productivity was so high in the Panhandle was after hurricanes Ivan and Dennis in 2004 and 2005.