National Wildlife Refuge System

Piping Plover


Birding Home Page

The piping plover is unique to North America.
Credit: Kaiti Titherington/USFWS


Named for its full, melodic tone, the piping plover is unique to North America, and despite widespread habitat loss, can be found on stretches of sandy beach all across the Atlantic coast.

With only an estimated 8,000 adult piping plovers left in the world, the tiny bird is the subject of conservation efforts in several Atlantic states.

The piping plover can most likely be found foraging along sandy ground for insects. Once hatched, young plovers typically leave the nest within just a few days, with very little parental supervision. The piping plover must make up for its small size by being resourceful.

One of the greatest threats to the piping plover is beach litter, which attracts small mammals such as raccoons. With little natural defense against such predators, plovers have disappeared in large numbers due to interferences in their habitat.


Piping Plover Data

·         Size and color – 6.7 to 7.1 inches tall, weighing between 1.5 and 2.2 ounces, with a wingspan of about 15 inches. Piping plovers sport a black ring around their necks that contrasts with their otherwise off-white and sand-colored plumage. They have short yellow beaks and leg.

·         Range – In summer, plovers are found along the Atlantic coast, mainly above North Carolina. A second population nests along the banks of the Great Lakes. In winter, the plovers migrate along the Gulf Coast.

·         Diet – Mainly small invertebrates, including insects, worms, crustaceans, mollusks, and the eggs of other beach species.

·         U.S. Habitat – Piping plovers prefer sparsely-vegetated, widely-expansive sandy areas where their plumage is similar to the color of sand

See this Bird!

·         Lostwood National Wildlife Refuge, ND – Plovers nest in the wetlands of the refuge beginning in early April each year.

·         Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, Massachusetts – As a popular mid-March nesting ground for plovers, the local beach is closed to humans to leave the birds undisturbed, leaving a small viewing section on the northern bank open.

·          Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, North Carolina – The refuge’s low-lying waters and salt flats allow piping plovers ample hunting grounds year-round.



Last updated: August 27, 2015