Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus)
Small, stocky, sandy-colored birds, piping plovers resemble sandpipers. Adult plovers have yellow-orange legs, a black band across the forehead from eye to eye, and a black ring around the base of the neck.
Plover chicks have been likened to tiny wind-up toys or cotton balls with legs. Like their parents, they run in short starts and stops. When still, adults and chicks blend into the pale background of open, sandy habitat on outer beaches where they feed and nest. The bird’s name derives from its call -- plaintive bell-like whistles often heard before the birds are seen.
Plovers in trouble
Piping plovers were common along the Atlantic coast during much of the 19th century, but commercial hunting for feathers to decorate hats nearly wiped them out. Following passage of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act in 1918, plovers recovered to a 20th century peak in the 1940s. Increased development and beach recreation after World War II caused the population decline that led to Endangered Species Act protection in 1986.
Road to recovery
The future looked very grim in 1986, with just 790 breeding pairs surviving on the Atlantic Coast. Intensive protection has helped the population more than double in the last 20 years. The work is not yet done, with the most recent surveys still placing the Atlantic population at fewer than 2,000 pairs. Barriers to plover recovery include habitat loss, predation and disturbance. Continued partnerships and long term planning among state and federal agencies, landowners, towns and beachgoers are vital to the plover's future.
More guidance and fact sheets
Featured video: Working with partners to conserve piping plovers on the shores of Massachusetts
The threatened piping plover has been the focus of intensive conservation in Massachusetts. Thanks to continuing efforts by the many partners of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and MassWildlife, the plover population here has come a long way since the shorebird was protected under the Endangered Species Act, with the population increasing by about 500 percent since it was listed in 1986.