Scientific name: Charadrius melodus
IUCN designation: Near Threatened
Canadian subspecies: Charadrius melodus circumcinctus (Great Lakes and prairies) Charadrius melodus melodus (eastern Canada)
SARA designation: Endangered (both)
COSEWIC designation: Endangered (both)
The Piping Plover is a small-sized shorebird, whose plumage acts as camouflage as it scurries along sandy and pebble beaches of lakes, rivers, and oceans1. The Piping Plover is typically six to seven inches in length and has a wingspan of 15 inches1,2. Throughout the year, the plumage of Piping Plovers is greyish brown with white underparts1. During breeding season, it has a black collar, the black line of the forehead and a black tip on its orange bill. During the nonbreeding season, the bill turns black and the black collar fades1.
Its bright orange legs distinguish the Piping Plover from other Plovers3.
Piping Plovers breed in three locations: the Atlantic coast, around the Great Lakes and at lakes in the Northern Great Plains of the US/ the Canadian Prairies4. Compared to the average shorebird, Piping Plovers migrate relatively short distances to their wintering areas in the coastal US, the Eastern Mexico coast and on the islands of the Caribbean2,5.
The Piping Plover population is in decline mainly due to the habitat destruction caused by human activity on their breeding grounds. More specifically, it is the development on local shores, pedestrians, pets and vehicles that harm nests and young chicks. The presence of humans provokes adults to abandon their chicks. Pets can predate upon the birds. Vehicles, such as trucks and ATVs, can crush the birds and nests for they are difficult to spot5,7.
To recover the Piping Plover population, cooperation amongst the beach-goers, beach communities, governmental and nongovernmental conservation groups is required. Efforts such as marking nesting areas on these beaches as restricted and having volunteers serve as “local guardians” for the Plovers have successfully increased populations and will continue to do so6.