Piping Plover

The Piping Plover is a endangered species that breeds along the Atlantic Coast from North Carolina into the Canadian Maritimes, as well as in the upper Great Plains into Canada and the southern shore of Lake Superior. Their primary wintering sites are along the southern Atlantic and Gulf Coasts. There are breeding colonies on Plum Island and these are protected by both the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the State of Massachusetts. The Wildlife Service closes the beach for the entire length of the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge during breeding season. Massachusetts fences off a large area above the beach at Sandy Point on the southern end of island. These photographs were taken at the State Park. We take great care to avoid disturbing the birds, even when some of them boldly approach us!

Piping Plovers are small birds that nest and forage in sandy areas. Their coloration makes them virtually invisible when they are not moving. These two were foraging for food and out in the open. Those short wings make them fairly short distance migrants.

This is the real star of the post. There was a bumper crop of Plover chicks at Sandy Point this year.

The chicks are precocial and are off and running soon after hatching. They look like a cotton ball that sprouted long legs. The parents seem to spend a lot of time trying to herd them back to safer positions. The mom or dad in foreground is keeping an eye out for trouble while junior runs around.

Least Terns nest in the same area as the Plovers. They seem to be tolerant of each other. The Tern has the wings of a long distance migrant.

Fox, coyotes and other mammalian predators are trouble for ground nesters like Plovers. Their natural camouflage color helps. The parents also use the fake broken wing approach to lure potential predators from the nest. Gulls, those ever present pirates, are also a threat to both eggs and chicks. These two Plovers were very agitated about the Herring Gull hanging out near the nesting area.

I moved a little closer [only to get a better photograph of course 🙂 ] and the Gull flew off with one of the Plovers hot on his tail to emphasize that he was not welcome in the area.

One final photograph of a chick. This one walked out of the nesting area and posed for me.

3 thoughts on “Piping Plover

  1. Plovers are feisty protectors of their nests! Doug unknowingly was too close to a nest next to the roadside while running on Plum Island and Mamma went after him!


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