While the ground here in Massachusetts is still covered with nearly a foot of snow in some places, the birds are telling me that spring is on the way.
And for me, one sign of spring is the arrival of the piping plovers. These small, sandy-colored shorebirds fly from as far south as the Bahamas to our beaches, where they nest and raise their families. They were common along the Atlantic Coast during much of the 19th century, but nearly disappeared due to excessive hunting for the hat trade.
While there was a brief boost in the population following passage of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act in 1918, plovers haven’t recovered from their most current decline, caused by booming development and recreation along beaches. They were listed under the Endangered Species Act as threatened in 1986. The most recent surveys place our Atlantic population at less than 2,000 pairs (we count them as pairs, or two individual birds).
They arrive on our Northeast Atlantic beaches in late March and early April (and they often return to the same beaches). If you want to learn more about what they do when they get here (establish territories for nests, perform courtship rituals, incubate eggs and so on), visit our plover page. COOL FACT: When predators or other intruders (yes, people and pets are intruders for these tiny birds) encroach upon plovers’ nests, these selfless parents will attempt to distract the intruders from their chicks, often by pretending they have a broken wing.
Anyhow, today we’re sharing a video from our folks that watch over the plovers at Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge in southern Maine. Enjoy!
If you’re visiting an area with rare shorebirds like the plover, we ask for your help:
- Respect all areas fenced or posted for protection of wildlife.
- Do not approach or linger near piping plovers or their nests.
- Please leave pets at home. Plovers perceive dogs as predators.
- Don’t leave or bury trash or food scraps on beaches. Garbage attracts predators which may prey upon piping plover eggs or chicks.