Where birds thrive, people prosper. The presence of birds is an important indicator of the health of our environment. Coastal areas are among our unique ecosystems that are highly important for many species of birds, offering breeding sites as well as rich sources of food for migratory stopovers. Unfortunately booming coastal development and recreational use of beaches are rapidly eroding vital habitat for birds and other wildlife. Among the species that are at greatest risk is the Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus)—a small migratory shorebird that breeds on beaches in Connecticut from late March through August.
This federally and state threatened bird lays 3‐4 eggs in a small depression in dry sand and cobble, and incubates them for about a month. The chicks grow quickly and are able to fly in only four weeks. Unfortunately, fewer than 60 pairs nest in Connecticut each year and there are only approximately 4,000 breeding pairs of Piping Plovers left worldwide.
Piping Plover's Greatest Threats
Many activities affect the Piping Plover population. Development or invasive plants can reduce the amount of available nesting habitat. People get too close to nests or dogs that chase adults can cause birds to abandon their nests. Predators stress both young and adult birds and will eat chicks or eggs. Beach erosion and tides can also impede their nesting success.
What Can We Do?
There are many organizations working together to protect coastal birds like Piping Plovers and their habitat in Connecticut, but ultimately it is people like you who can make the greatest impact. Please help keep Piping Plovers safe by following these tips when on the beach.
1. Report the location of Piping Plovers and their nests.
|Please report your Piping Plover sightings to Audubon Alliance staff, CT DEEP, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, or official volunteers (see contact info below). Starting in April, sites along Long Island Sound with appropriate habitat are surveyed to locate nesting Piping Plovers. Once a nest is found, it is protected by placing a wire exclosure over the nest and string fencing around the general area. This provides protection from predators, while allowing the adult plovers to come and go.|
2. Stay away from nest exclosures and posted Piping Plover breeding areas.
|When nest sites are identified, walk along the wet sand close to the water's edge. Please observe signs and string fencing that is posted to alert people to keep their distance.|
3. Always keep dogs leashed.
|Perceived as predators, even leashed dogs can stress plovers. Please respect local laws that restrict or prohibit the presence of dogs. Dogs chase plovers causing them to leave their nests exposing eggs and chicks to weather extremes and predation. Dogs will also chase and catch chicks and adults, resulting in death or injury.|
4. Pack out your food waste and garbage.
|Although other species also pose a threat, Gulls, rats, feral cats, foxes, and raccoons are the most common predators of Piping Plover adults, chicks, and eggs. Human activity near plover nests can attract predators when food scraps and other sorts of litter are left on the beach.|
5. Leave driftwood and algae on the beaches.
|Piping Plovers and their chicks find food in algae and use driftwood for protection from predators and as shelter.|
6. Do not operate vehicles on beaches with nesting Piping Plovers.
|Vehicles, including ATVs and dirt bikes, can disturb Piping Plovers, destroy nests, crush chicks, and damage beach and dune habitat. Avoiding the use of vehicles, along with carefully planned shoreline development, can lead to a sustainable co-existence between birds and people on the beach.|
7. Report people or pets disturbing Piping Plovers or their nests.
|Please notify local police or animal control, Audubon Alliance staff, CT DEEP, or the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (see contact info below) if you see Piping Plovers or their nests being disturbed. Doing so is against the law and can result in a fine of $25,000, or six months or more of jail time.|
8. Become informed.
|Learning more about Piping Plovers and other coastal birds and sharing information with others is another great way to help protect them. For more information, tips, and other ways you can get involved, visit ctwaterbirds.blogspot.com.|
This information is brought to you by Audubon Connecticut and Roger Tory Peterson Institute (RTPI) with support from our friends, partners, and fellow members of the Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds: Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (CT DEEP), The Connecticut Audubon Society, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, The Goldenrod Foundation, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and Long Island Sound Study.
View Piping Plover Brochure (en español)
Report a New Nest or Damage to Fencing or Signs to:
Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds, email
Laura Saucier, CT DEEP Wildlife Division, email
Report Harassment or Taking of Piping Plovers to (one of the following):
Doug Beaudreau, Federal Wildlife Officer, 401-354-9329 (cell)
Tom Ricardi, USFWS Special Agent, 860-280-4894 (cell)
CT DEEP EnCon Police, 860-424-3333
Rick Potvin, USFWS Refuge Manager, 860-961-4247
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