Piping Plover

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Learn more about the Piping Plover here

More information is available in the 5-year review and recovery plan.


piping ploverPiping Plover (Charadrius melodus)
Status: Threatened
Listed: December 11, 1985

For questions regarding the Piping Plover in Arkansas, please contact Rebecca Peak at rebecca_peak@fws.gov or 501-513-4475.

Species Facts:
Piping plovers are migratory shorebirds that breed in North America in three geographic regions: the Atlantic Coast, Northern Great Plains, and Great Lakes. They are small and stocky, with a light brown upper-body, a white underside and orange legs. During the breeding season, adults have a black forehead and breast band and an orange and black bill. Females usually lay four eggs in a shallow nest lined with pebbles or broken shells. Both parents care for the eggs and offspring. Once hatched, the chicks are can actively forage within a few hours. They are thought to eat insects, spiders, crustaceans, and mollusks. In 2001, it was estimated that there were fewer than 3000 breeding pairs of piping plovers across North America.

Learn more about the Piping Plover here.

Habitat Summary:
Plovers from all three breeding populations winter along coastal beaches and barrier islands from North Carolina to Texas, the eastern coast of Mexico, and on Caribbean islands. They migrate to their nesting grounds in mid-April and depart mid-July to late August. During fall and spring, plovers use rest sites along the migration pathway including shorelines of reservoirs/man-made lakes, industrial ponds/fish farm ponds, rivers, marsh/wetlands, and natural lakes. These stopover sites are highly influenced by local water levels, and tend to consist of locations with muddy/sandy substrates. Plovers do not concentrate in large numbers at inland stopover sites; instead, they stay for just a few days and then move on. They do not use the same stopover sites between years. Migration stopover habitat is not well documented, but migrating piping plovers have been observed in Arkansas.

Why is it endangered?
Like many of our other listed species, habitat loss is one of the main reasons for the decline of the piping plover. Many of the coastal beaches used as nesting habitat have been developed for commercial, recreational, and residential use. This has also led to an increase in nest disturbance and predation, as plovers will abandon their nests when disturbed by humans or other predators. Unwary people can crush the well-camouflaged eggs and young birds, and dogs, cats and other wildlife often harass or eat young plovers and eggs. Additionally, water control structures such as dams allow humans to control the levels of lakes and rivers near the inland nesting sites. Too much water can flood the plovers’ nests, while too little water can cause vegetation to grow on what was nesting habitat and make it unsuitable for the plovers.

While populations are still below the goals set in the 1988 recovery plan, the number of breeding pairs is slowly increasing. However, many of the factors that caused the species to be listed are still a threat, and in some cases have only increased in severity. These threats are well known, however, and management techniques to reduce threats to the species have shown to be successful when implemented. The piping plover is thought to have high recovery potential if conservation and threat mitigation continues. Critical habitat was designated in the Great Lakes breeding area in 2001, and there is also critical habitat designated for wintering populations in 137 areas along the Atlantic coast.

In 2009, the Service performed a 5-year review of the status of the species. The Piping Plover recovery plan can be accessed here.

Range in Arkansas:

Arkansas Field Office
110 S. Amity Road
Suite 300
Conway, AR 72032

501/513 4470 (v)
501/513 4480 (f)

Last Updated: December 30, 2015

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