Where do the plovers go?
Many of our coastal biologists and partners dedicate summers to conserving threatened piping plovers, which return to our beaches in March and April and spend the next several months nesting and raising young.
Some residents and vacationers on beaches with nesting plovers are keenly aware of their presence – or reminded by signs or volunteers or staff that monitor the nests, parents, and eventually, the tiny, sand-colored chicks. We recently shared a story from Massachusetts highlighting the efforts of Ellisville Marsh residents that have banded together to conserve plovers and habitat, as well another story sharing the efforts of volunteer plover wardens at Newbury beach. A huge thanks to these partners!
After much work (by people and plovers!), the surviving young fledge, and plovers gather in groups to head south.
By mid-September, little sign of the birds is left here. But while they may not be on our beaches, they’re on our minds!
Piping plovers spend nearly two-thirds of the year outside the Northeast, so it’s important to support the expansion of conservation work beyond the breeding areas in our region. Our plovers head south along the U.S. Atlantic coast, and some pass the entire winter in North or South Carolina, Georgia, or Florida. The vast majority, however, make their way to the Bahamas. Although biologists had long suspected the Bahamas to be an extremely important piping plover wintering area, an extensive survey effort over the last couple of years has identified many of the Bahamian beaches where a large proportion of Atlantic Coast breeders spend the winter.
Just last week, a couple of efforts popped up promoting year-round plover conservation. As part of their continuing partnership with Friends of the Environment in Abaco, Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey will soon begin distributing these spiffy decals emphasizing conservation of plovers throughout their coastal migration and wintering range. National Audubon announced efforts with Bahamas National Trust for a new national park in the Joulter Cays protecting important winter habitat for the plover and red knot, which we recently proposed for “threatened” status under the Endangered Species Act.
Join us in supporting shorebird conservation!
Want a better understanding of the migration and life cycle of our plovers? Check out Audubon’s interactive map.
Other articles to check out:
- Scientific American, Piping Plovers in Migration: Foraging for Their Lives (Sept. 24, 2013)
- Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey, Overview of Piping Plover Flight Behavior Research