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What is a Piping Plover?

Misty Amber Brighton
Misty Amber Brighton

A piping plover is a small bird that lives on North American coastlines. The species may spend summers in Canada or the northern U.S., and then migrates to the Gulf of Mexico during winter. It normally has a white chest, gray back and wings, and orange legs and beak. These birds also have a black band around their neck and a black stripe across the top of their head.

This bird is unique to North America, primarily Canada and the United States. It mainly lives on the sandy shores of the Atlantic ocean. Piping plovers may occasionally be found along beaches in the Great Lakes, which are large bodies of fresh water located inland United States. During the winter, they can be found along the Gulf of Mexico, located in the southern U.S. and eastern Mexico.

Piping plovers live on North American coastlines.
Piping plovers live on North American coastlines.

The chest of a piping plover is normally white or light gray. It usually has a gray back and wings with a black ring around its neck. Males and females of the species are similarly marked, but males have a slightly wider neck band. All adult birds typically have a black mark on the head that runs between the eyes.

A piping plover usually has bright orange legs, feet, and beak. The beak may have a black tip. An adult plover normally stands around seven inches (17.78 cm) high and weighs only 1.5 to 1.7 ounces (43 to 48 g). It typically has a wide wingspan, reaching up to 18 inches (45.72 cm) in some instances.

The chest of a piping plover is normally white or light gray.
The chest of a piping plover is normally white or light gray.

This bird generally prefers high ground along sandy beaches. It typically chooses a habitat away from high tide waters. The female normally prefers to lay her eggs in a grassy area, if one is available. A male piping plover normally digs out the nest by kicking out sand with his feet. After the female has approved of his work, she may gather sea shells or other debris to camouflage the nest further.

A piping plover is considered to be an endangered species in the Great Lakes region by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Along the Atlantic coast, it is considered to be threatened, or close to becoming endangered. As a result, some beaches in Canada and the U.S. may have protected nesting areas for this bird. People who encounter this animal should take care not to disturb it in order to make sure the species survives for future generations to enjoy.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Piping Plover and where can it be found?

The Piping Plover is a small, sand-colored shorebird that nests and feeds along coastal sand and gravel beaches in North America. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, these birds are primarily found on the Atlantic coast from Newfoundland to North Carolina, along the Great Lakes shores, and on the mid-continental Great Plains.

Why is the Piping Plover considered endangered?

Piping Plovers are considered endangered due to habitat loss, human disturbance, and predation, which have led to a decline in their population. The National Audubon Society reports that their breeding habitat has been reduced by development, while recreational activities on beaches disturb their nesting sites, contributing to their vulnerable status.

What does the Piping Plover eat?

Piping Plovers primarily feed on invertebrates such as insects, marine worms, and crustaceans. They forage by sight, catching prey on the ground or in shallow water. Their diet is essential for their survival, especially during breeding season, as noted by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, to provide energy for nesting and raising chicks.

How does the Piping Plover nest and raise its young?

Piping Plovers are ground-nesters, creating shallow scrapes in the sand to lay their eggs. Both parents incubate the eggs and care for the precocial chicks, which can walk and feed themselves shortly after hatching. The chicks fledge in about 30 days, with parental guidance crucial for their survival, as stated by the American Bird Conservancy.

What conservation efforts are in place for the Piping Plover?

Conservation efforts for the Piping Plover include habitat protection, predator management, and public education. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has designated critical habitat areas and implements recovery plans. Additionally, volunteer programs help monitor nests and educate beachgoers to minimize human disturbance during the breeding season.

How can individuals help protect the Piping Plover?

Individuals can help protect the Piping Plover by respecting wildlife protection areas and keeping beaches clean. During nesting season, it's important to follow local guidelines, such as keeping dogs on leashes and avoiding nesting areas, as recommended by conservation organizations. Supporting habitat conservation initiatives and participating in beach clean-ups also contribute to the species' recovery.

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    • Piping plovers live on North American coastlines.
      Piping plovers live on North American coastlines.
    • The chest of a piping plover is normally white or light gray.
      By: dule964
      The chest of a piping plover is normally white or light gray.