Piping Plover

Charadrius melodus
Piping Plover - Profile

A small pale shorebird of open sandy beaches and alkali flats, the Piping Plover is found along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, as well as inland in the northern Great Plains. Due to habitat loss or degradation, as well as nest disturbance and predation, all populations of Piping Plovers are considered either threatened or endangered. The Northern Great Plains and Atlantic coast piping plovers are threatened, while the Great Lakes population is perilously endangered.

These small, stocky shorebirds have a sand-colored upper body, a white underside, and orange legs. During the breeding season, adults have a black forehead, a black breast band, and an orange bill.

Piping plovers use wide, flat, open, sandy beaches with very little grass or other vegetation. Nesting territories often include small creeks or wetlands.

Piping plovers are migratory birds. In the spring and summer they breed in northern United States and Canada. There are three locations where piping plovers nest in North America: the shorelines of the Great Lakes, the shores of rivers and lakes in the Northern Great Plains, and along the Atlantic Coast. Their nesting range has become smaller over the years, especially in the Great Lakes area. In the fall, plovers migrate south and winter along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico or other southern locations. Biologists have a lot to learn about the lives of piping plovers in their winter range.

The female lays four eggs in its small, shallow nest lined with pebbles or broken shells. Both parents care for the eggs and chicks. When the chicks hatch, they are able to run about and feed themselves within hours.

Why is the Piping Plover Endangered?
Habitat Loss or Degredation - Many of the coastal beaches traditionally used by piping plovers for nesting have been lost to commercial, residential, and recreational developments. Through the use of dams or other water control structures, humans are able to raise and lower the water levels of many lakes and rivers of plover inland nest sites. Too much water in the spring floods the plovers' nests. Too little water over a long period of time allows grasses and other vegetation to grow on the prime nesting beaches, making these sites unsuitable for successful nesting.

Nest Disturbance and Predation - Piping plovers are very sensitive to the presence of humans. Too much disturbance causes the parent birds to abandon their nest. People (either on foot or in a vehicle) using the beaches where the birds nest sometimes accidentally crush eggs or young birds. Dogs and cats often harass and kill the birds. Other animals, such as fox, gulls, and crows, prey on the young plovers or eggs.









Facts About Piping Plover

Small shorebird with a short neck and moderately long, orange legs
Open sandy beaches, especially above tideline, and alkalai flats.
Insects and small aquatic invertebrates.
Protection Status
All populations of piping plovers are considered either threatened or endangered.
Did You Know?
The oldest recorded piping plover was at least 13 years, 8 months old, when it was spotted and ID's by its band in Texas in 2015. It had been banded in Saskatchewan in 2002.