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MDIFW: Endangered Piping Plover nesting season underway in Maine

May 2, 2012


284 State St., SHS 41, Augusta, ME 04333 Main Number: (207) 287-8000

AUGUSTA – The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is urging beachgoers -- and their pets -- to stay away from the nests of Piping Plovers that are gracing a few beaches in southern Maine. Taking advantage of an early spring, Piping Plovers have arrived early in Maine and are beginning to set up nesting territories. At least ten pairs have already established nests and are incubating eggs!

Piping Plovers are an endangered shorebird species that nest on white sand beaches where nesting success is a constant struggle against weather, beachgoers, pets, and predators. They were listed on the state’s Endangered Species List in 1997, and were federally listed as Threatened Species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1986.

Piping Plovers are small, pale shorebirds whose sandy brown and white colorings act as camouflage to protect it from predators. Unfortunately, because their camouflage works so well, many people and their pets do not see them or their sand-colored eggs. Subsequently, nests and eggs can be easily and inadvertently destroyed.

Piping Plovers are approximately 7.5 inches high and weigh up to 2.5 ounces. They have yellow legs, short necks, and a broken brown or black necklace band on their chest.

In 2011, 33 pairs of Piping Plovers nesting on 16 beaches successfully fledged over 70 young, making the 2011 Piping Plover season the most productive since 1995! Given the early start this year, biologists and plover enthusiasts are hoping 2012 nesting season will be another record setting season. Currently Piping Plovers have been observed on Ogunquit Beach, Wells Beach, Parsons Beach, Goose Rocks Beach, Fortunes Rocks Beach, Goose Fare Brook, Scarborough Beach, Higgins Beach, Seawall Beach, and Popham Beach State Park. Nesting areas are identified with signage and stake and twine fencing.

“From a Piping Plover’s point of view, people and dogs are predators,” according to MDIF&W Wildlife Biologist Lindsay Tudor. “Plovers do not understand leashes and dogs under voice control, and they do not recognize dogs that would never touch a bird. If beachgoers or their dogs are too close to Piping Plovers and their chicks, the adults will attempt to draw away the danger. Unfortunately, chicks left alone are easy prey for crows and gulls lurking nearby.”

To retain this bird in Maine protecting every nest and chick is vital. The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, Maine Audubon, Bureau of Parks and Lands, Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge, the Nature Conservancy, Bates College, Towns of Wells, Ogunquit, Old Orchard Beach, Scarborough, and many private landowners have a long standing collaboration regarding managing piping plovers. We urge beachgoers and pet owners to give nesting Piping Plovers space!

To protect our last few endangered Piping Plovers, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, along with its partner, Maine Audubon, are urging beachcombers to:

• Avoid taking their dogs to beaches that currently have nesting Piping Plovers.

• Be on the lookout for the tiny Piping Plover chicks. Once they hatch, they leave the nest (designated with signs and stake-and-twine fencing), and are extremely vulnerable to a host of predators. Chicks are flightless for 25-35 days, feeding themselves in the company of their parents.

• Stay away from the stake-and-twine fencing identifying protective nesting areas. If you want to observe the Piping Plovers, do so from a great distance with high-powered binoculars.

(editor’s note: we have a couple of still photos of Piping Plovers we can send you on request.)