Piping Plover

Chardrius melodus[i]

Birds

pipingplover2

Anyway, just went to the beach. Always fun to get some sun and play in the surf. Most readers here will agree with me. And there are plenty of nice beaches in the area to visit. I normally head to the warmer water beaches to the south, and that happens to almost always be Horseneck Beach in the town of Westport, MA. Also, when I head to the beach I find roped off areas that no one can enter – this means YOU! This is where birds nest, many of which are protected by law (but not the seagulls, no one cares about seagulls) because their numbers have decreased in recent years. There are a few species that like to nest in these spots on the beach, the one most have heard about is the piping plover.

Yeah, you have heard them in the news. Seems like every year, the news comes out with a story about them, mostly rehashing last year’s story. And why? Because they are just adorable. Just look at that picture, cute! Not like those seagulls, no one likes seagulls. They steal people’s lunches and crap all over the place.

As I mentioned earlier, these birds are protected by law as they are listed as endangered.[ii] However, there is some good news, at least in Massachusetts. They have rebounded nicely here, but I can’t say much for the rest of their range. As of 2015, there were 689 known breeding pairs – up from 132 in 1965[iii] – in the state of Massachusetts,[iv] which is about 1/3 of all known breeding pairs on the East Coast.[v] More than half of these bird in Massachusetts are on Cape Cod,[vi] However, the Islands also have relatively healthy populations as well.[vii] But, this represents a very small portion of their range, they are doing poorly elsewhere.[viii]

The piping plover actually has two populations: One population lives in the Great Plains, which I will not discuss because that part of the country is beyond the scope of this blog -and the other on the Atlantic Coast.[ix] On the Atlantic Coast their breeding range is between New Brunswick and North Carolina,[x]  and breed between April and August.[xi] The wintering ranges of both populations is in the coastal southeast USA.[xii]

These birds nest directly on the ground[xiii], often in those aforementioned roped off areas. Normally, three to four eggs are laid at a time,[xiv] and they may nest several times during breeding season.[xv] Also, those eggs on the ground tend to be spotted and blend in very well with the beach they nest on.[xvi] Again those roped off areas are needed to prevent people from accidently stepping on the eggs.

The piping plover is a small bird. They are only a little over 7 inches in length from nose to tail.[xvii] They have a pale beige-ish back and white belly with a dark band on their chest and dark spot above their bill. They also have orange legs, and a short stubby tail.[xviii] Plovers like to live on wide sandy beaches,[xix] and they eat various small invertebrates that wash ashore there.[xx] Their call is a whistle-like peep or peep-lo.[xxi]

So if you happen to notice these guys when you are at the beach, check them out as they are quite cute but try not to disturb them. And definitely, do not disturb the nests or babies, as you can get in an awful lot of trouble for doing so. Oh yeah,

[i] Kaufman, Kenn “Kaufman Field Guide to Birds of North America” pg168. Hillstar Editions L.C. 2000

[ii] Author Unknown “Piping Plover” Wikipedia. 01JUL2016

[iii] Fisk, Emma J. and Blodget, Bradford G. “ Breeding Bird Atlas 1 Species Accounts Piping Plover”  Mass Audubon http://www.massaudubon.org/our-conservation-work/wildlife-research-conservation/statewide-bird-monitoring/breeding-bird-atlases/bba1/find-a-bird/(id)/54 01JUL2016

[iv] Abel, David “US May Ease Rules on Plovers” The Boston Globe (online version) Jan 22, 2016 https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2016/01/21/beachgoers-may-get-break-plovers-rebound/cDf9WcGsBTkMV30rjLmu4N/story.html 01JUL2016

[v] Abel, David “US May Ease Rules on Plovers” The Boston Globe (online version) Jan 22, 2016 https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2016/01/21/beachgoers-may-get-break-plovers-rebound/cDf9WcGsBTkMV30rjLmu4N/story.html 01JUL2016

[vi] Abel, David “US May Ease Rules on Plovers” The Boston Globe (online version) Jan 22, 2016 https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2016/01/21/beachgoers-may-get-break-plovers-rebound/cDf9WcGsBTkMV30rjLmu4N/story.html 01JUL2016

[vii] Fisk, Emma J. and Blodget, Bradford G. “ Breeding Bird Atlas 1 Species Accounts Piping Plover”  Mass Audubon http://www.massaudubon.org/our-conservation-work/wildlife-research-conservation/statewide-bird-monitoring/breeding-bird-atlases/bba1/find-a-bird/(id)/54 01JUL2016

[viii] Abel, David “US May Ease Rules on Plovers” The Boston Globe (online version) Jan 22, 2016 https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2016/01/21/beachgoers-may-get-break-plovers-rebound/cDf9WcGsBTkMV30rjLmu4N/story.html 01JUL2016

[ix] Kaufman, Kenn “Kaufman Field Guide to Birds of North America” pg168. Hillstar Editions L.C. 2000

[x] Kaufman, Kenn “Kaufman Field Guide to Birds of North America” pg168. Hillstar Editions L.C. 2000

[xi] Fisk, Emma J. and Blodget, Bradford G. “ Breeding Bird Atlas 1 Species Accounts Piping Plover”  Mass Audubon http://www.massaudubon.org/our-conservation-work/wildlife-research-conservation/statewide-bird-monitoring/breeding-bird-atlases/bba1/find-a-bird/(id)/54 01JUL2016

[xii] Kaufman, Kenn “Kaufman Field Guide to Birds of North America” pg168. Hillstar Editions L.C. 2000

[xiii] Edited by Elphick, Chris, Dunning, John B. and Sibley, David Allen “National Audubon Society The Field Guide to Bird Life & Behavior” pg. 262. 2001, Chanticleer Press, New York.

[xiv] Edited by Elphick, Chris, Dunning, John B. and Sibley, David Allen “National Audubon Society The Field Guide to Bird Life & Behavior” pg. 262. 2001, Chanticleer Press, New York

[xv] Fisk, Emma J. and Blodget, Bradford G. “ Breeding Bird Atlas 1 Species Accounts Piping Plover”  Mass Audubon http://www.massaudubon.org/our-conservation-work/wildlife-research-conservation/statewide-bird-monitoring/breeding-bird-atlases/bba1/find-a-bird/(id)/54 02JUL2016

[xvi] Edited by Elphick, Chris, Dunning, John B. and Sibley, David Allen “National Audubon Society The Field Guide to Bird Life & Behavior” pg 262. 2001, Chanticleer Press, New York.

[xvii] Kaufman, Kenn “Kaufman Field Guide to Birds of North America” pg168. Hillstar Editions L.C. 2000

[xviii] Kaufman, Kenn “Kaufman Field Guide to Birds of North America” pg168-9. Hillstar Editions L.C. 2000

[xix] Fisk, Emma J. and Blodget, Bradford G. “ Breeding Bird Atlas 1 Species Accounts Piping Plover”  Mass Audubon http://www.massaudubon.org/our-conservation-work/wildlife-research-conservation/statewide-bird-monitoring/breeding-bird-atlases/bba1/find-a-bird/(id)/54 02JUL2016

[xx] Fisk, Emma J. and Blodget, Bradford G. “ Breeding Bird Atlas 1 Species Accounts Piping Plover”  Mass Audubon http://www.massaudubon.org/our-conservation-work/wildlife-research-conservation/statewide-bird-monitoring/breeding-bird-atlases/bba1/find-a-bird/(id)/54 02JUL2016

[xxi] Kaufman, Kenn “Kaufman Field Guide to Birds of North America” pg168. Hillstar Editions L.C. 2000

Photo credit: me

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