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Mountain-Prairie Region


Piping Plover

Piping Plover on nest imagepiping plover image

Fact Sheet:  Habitat

Protection of habitat is paramount to the survival and recovery of all imperiled species, including the piping plover.

In the northern Great Plains, piping plover nest on riverine sandbars and on wide, flat, open, sandy, and sparsely-vegetated beaches along inland lakes and reservoirs. They also nest on gravel pits along rivers and on the salt-encrusted bare areas of interior alkali wetlands and lakes.

The following kinds of habitat contain the physical or biological features essential to piping plover conservation and are included in the critical habitat designation for the northern Great Plains breeding population of piping plover.

Alkali Wetlands and Lakes:

About half the population breeds along alkali lakes and wetlands and other small bodies of water. Nesting sites on these areas are generally wide, gravelly, salt-encrusted beaches with minimal vegetation. Alkali lakes and wetlands are found in North Dakota and Montana.

Inland Lakes:

Piping Plovers use barren to sparsely vegetated, windswept, and sandy or gravelly islands, beaches, and peninsulas of inland lakes, such as Lake of the Woods, Minnesota.


Rivers provide piping plovers with sparsely vegetated sandbars with sandy or gravelly beaches. This type of habitat is found in portions of the Missouri, Platte, Niobrara, and Loup rivers.


On reservoirs, piping Plovers nest on the sparsely-vegetated shoreline beaches, peninsulas, and islands composed of sand, gravel, or shale. This type of habitat is found at reservoirs along the Missouri River (MT, ND, SD, and NE) and Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge (MT).

Birds in the Mountain Prairie Region  |  FWS Mountain-Prairie Region Web Site

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