Piping Plover - Charadrius melodus - Threatened
General Information : The piping plover is a sandy-gray, robin-sized shorebird with a dark band on top of the head and another band across the breast. Sound's like a killdeer, you say? The killdeer has two bands of black across the breast.
From Chick to Piping Plover: The piping plover lays 2 to 4 eggs in the sand beginning in mid-May. The adult pairs are territorial and will defend their area from other plovers. Both parents care for the young birds until they are ready to fly and leave the sandbar in late August.
What's for Dinner?: The piping plover spends most of its time running along the sandbars, searching for insects. They also feed on crustaceans and mollusks.
Natural Habitat: Across the Great Plains, the piping plover uses the sand and gravel shores of rivers and lakes. The piping plover is an extremely rare bird that nests on the sandbars of the Missouri and Yellowstone Rivers. They can also be found in alkali wetlands and lakes throughout the prairie pothole region of North Dakota.
From Here to There: The piping plover migrate south to the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean. They often return to the same sandbar year after year to nest.
- Piping plovers often share sandbars with least terns, an endangered species.
- Young plovers are able to walk and feed within hours of hatching.
Reasons for Population Decline: In North Dakota, the construction of reservoirs on the Missouri River has resulted in the loss of sandbar habitats for the plover. The decline of the piping plover in the alkali wetlands is due to wetland drainage, contaminants, and cattle grazing.
Road to Recovery: Certain sandbars used by the birds are posted with signs that close these areas to human use during the nesting season.