Article in: Bird Conservation
September 16, 2008
The Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus) has suffered serious decline due to habitat destruction along Atlantic, Gulf Coast, and Great Lake shorelines as well as in the Great Plains.
2001 population estimates totalled 5,945 individual birds:
- Atlantic Coast – 2929 [49%]
- Great Plains – 2953 [50%]
- Great Lakes – 70 – [1%]
Important breeding areas in New England include Cape Cod National Seashore, Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge and Duxbury/Plymouth Bay’s Complex Important Bird Area. In the Great Lakes region, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Michigan is the most important breeding site. Important areas of the Great Plains are mostly found in Saskatchewan and North Dakota, where the Nature Conservancy’s John E. Williams Preserve supports one of the largest populations in the world, sometimes over 200 birds.
- Slow production of global warming pollution
- Ensure proper water levels and habitat conditions in areas currently supporting plover populations
- Increase education, volunteering, predator and pet management and other beneficial activities
- Increase acreage of wetland and shorebird habitat
- Decrease habitat degradation from vehicle traffic, pollution, invasive species et…
- Expand range-wide population surveys to Mexico and the Caribbean
Organizations like Massachusetts Audubon Society and the Maine Audubon Society have engaged numerous staff members and interns plus volunteers to create predator barriers and promote education and awareness. Coupled with other organizations including the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game, Piping Plover pairs increased from 139 to 495 between 1986 and 2001. Maine Audubon also was successful by more than tripling numbers from 15 to 55 pairs.
In the Great Plains conservation is more limited but several Nature Conservancy sites and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are working with private landowners in North Dakota and Montana. In Nebraska, the Tern and Plover Conservation Partnership has an adopt-a-colony program and works to reduce mining activities near plover nests.
Despite the efforts, Great Plains populations are still declining overall, but Atlantic Coast numbers have more than doubled since the 1980s.
Check out the Audubon WatchList for ways you can help. You can also help by donating to the Nature Conservancy.
Full details on this species and 99 other North American birds at risk can be found in Jeffrey V. Wells’ Birder’s Conservation Handbook.