The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has a long tradition of scientific excellence and always uses the best-available science to inform its work to conserve fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitat for the benefit of the American public.
Created in 1903 by President Theodore Roosevelt, today's National Wildlife Refuge System protects habitats and wildlife across the country, from the Alaskan tundra to subtropical wetlands. Managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Refuge System's 560-plus refuges cover more than 150 million acres and protect nearly 1,400 species of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and fish.
While national wildlife refuges were created to protect wildlife, they are for people too. Refuges are ideal places for people of all ages to explore and connect with the natural world. We invite you to learn more about and visit the national wildlife refuges and wetland management districts in Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming.
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The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Fish and Aquatic Conservation Program in the Mountain-Prairie Region helps conserve, protect, and enhance aquatic resources and provides economically valuable recreational fishing to anglers across the country. The program comprises 12 National Fish Hatcheries.
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Species Description: The piping plover (Charadrius melodus) is a small shorebird about the size of a robin. It has a sandy colored back and white underparts, with a single black neck band, a short stout orange bill and orange legs. Piping plovers arrive in the Northern Great Plains to breed around mid-April and fly south by mid to late August.
Location: The Northern Great Plains population of piping plovers nest on the shorelines and islands of alkali (salty) lakes in North Dakota and Montana. They nest on sandbar islands and reservoir shorelines along the Missouri River and reservoirs in Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska. In Nebraska, they nest on the Platte River system, Niobrara, Loup, and Elkhorn rivers as well as limited locations in Minnesota and Colorado. Most of the Northern Great Plains plovers winter along the Texas coast, extending into Mexico.
Nesting: For nesting, piping plovers make shallow scrapes in the sand which they line with small pebbles or rocks. The female lays three to four eggs and both parents share in incubation duties. The eggs hatch after about 28 days, and the young leave the nest within hours. The chicks can forage for themselves immediately, but remain near their parents for several weeks for protection and temperature control (brooding or shading). Depending on food availability, it takes the young from around 18 to 28 days to begin flying.
Reasons for decline: In the late 1800’s, piping plovers’ feathers were used in the millinery (hat) trade, and the species was heavily hunted. Starting in the 1930’s, dam construction, water diversion and water withdrawals changed river flow regimes and drastically reduced the amount of available nesting habitat. Human-caused changes to the landscape have increased the number and type of predators, decreasing nest success and chick survival. On the wintering grounds, human disturbance, beach development, and sea level rise, have all drastically decreased the amount of habitat available to the piping plover.
Actions: A five-year review of the piping plovers’ Endangered Species Act listing was completed in September 2009. The current recovery plan was finalized in 1988. A draft revised recovery plan was released in March, 2016. That announcement opened a 60-day comment period, which closed May 14, 2016.
Designation of Critial Habitat for the Nothern Great Plains Populations of Piping Plover
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has designated certain habitats in Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska as critical habitat for the Northern Great Plains population of piping plover, and imperiled migratory shorebird. This designation included 183,422 acres of habitat and 1,207.5 river miles.
Designated areas of critical habitat include prairie alkali wetlands and surrounding shoreline; river channels and associated sandbars and islands; and reservoirs and inland lakes and their sparsely vegetated shorelines, peninsulas, and islands.
These areas provide primary courtship, nesting, foraging, sheltering, brood-rearing and dispersal habitat for piping plovers.
For More Information About Piping Plovers in the Following States: North Dakota: Kevin Shelley, 701-355-8512 South Dakota: Natalie Gates, 605-224-8693 extension 227 Nebraska: Jeff Runge, 308-382-6468, extension 209