WatchList Species Account for Piping Plover
(Charadrius melodus)

Qualifies for the list as a Red List Species


Piping Plover


The Piping Plover is an endangered shorebird that breeds along the Atlantic Coast from the Maritime Provinces of Canada to North Carolina, at very scattered localities along the western Great Lakes, and along rivers and wetlands from the southern Prairie Provinces to Nebraska, with scattered localities in Colorado and Oklahoma. In winter it is found on coastal beaches, mudflats, and sandflats from North Carolina to Florida, and west along the Gulf Coast to northern Mexico, with scattered records from elsewhere along the Gulf, to the Yucatan, and with some records in Bermuda, the Bahamas, and the West Indies.


In the latter half of the 20th century the Piping Plover disappeared as a breeding species in several Great Lakes states, and numbers at several localities have dwindled to a few pairs.


Breeding habitat is varied, including sandy beaches, sand or gravel beaches adjacent to alkali lakes in the Great Plains, and beaches, sand flats, and dredge islands along rivers. Along the Atlantic Coast, the bird chooses as nesting habitat the same beaches popular for recreation and second-home and development. Here the populations are maintained by intense management.


On some managed beaches, predator exclosures are put around nests to prevent predation by foxes, raccoons, skunks, feral cats and dogs, crows, and gulls. These beaches are also posted and patrolled by wardens to keep human intruders away during the breeding season as well. These measure have proven widely successful, and the bird has increased its numbers in some coastal states.


Water management practices in some parts of the Great Plains can flood nest sites and destroy the sandbars the bird needs for breeding. Threats at wintering sites need more investigation.


The Piping Plover has attracted much attention from conservationists, and periodic censuses have yielded good estimates of population sizes. Total population is estimated at 6,000 individuals and rising, though the Great Lakes population continues to decline. The species is listed as endangered in the Great Lakes, and threatened elsewhere in the United States. It is also listed as endangered in Canada.