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Piping Plovers: The Bird On The Beach

The species Charadrium Melodus, or better known as the Piping Plover is the threatened coastal bird you will hear most Mass locals talk about. Sometimes it is positive and sometimes not so much!

After wintering in places like the Gulf Coast, Bahamas, and the south east coastal regions of the United States Piping Plovers fly north to find a mate, make a scrape (nest) and have some babies. This happens in early April and lasts till early July.

Even though Piping Plovers can fly they spend most of their time on the ground. Even their scrapes are found on the ground tucked in between rocks. The eggs mimic rocks as a form of disguise. The only way to tell the difference is they are neatly together and are round instead of jagged. The scrapes are small, shallow holes dug in the sand and can be decorated with shells. They are actually very pretty!

A mated pair can have up to four eggs which take between 26-28 days to incubate. Once hatched it can take the chicks about 35 days to fly. We stop watching the nest when a chick has flown 50 ft. From birth chicks feed themselves but their parents teach them how and what to forage. They look to their parents for protection from predators, the elements and for warmth.

The placements of the nests, coloring of the eggs, and how small the chicks are it is easy to accidentally step on the scrape or babies. This is why areas are roped off at the beach. Eggs and/or chicks can be eaten by cats, raccoons, seagulls, or coyotes. This is just to name a few natural threats. Some other threats the Piping Plover face are habitat loss from storms as well as coastal development.

Piping Plovers are more important than we know for a couple of reasons. A Piping Plovers diet consists of marine worms, small sand fleas, fly larvae, beetles, crustaceans, mollusks and other small marine animals. This helps keep those populations in check and out of our hair while we enjoy the beach. To researchers and scientists the fact that these birds are an indicator species is more important. What that means is that it tells these people how healthy an ecosystem is. So if Piping Plovers are around you know that you are at a clean and healthy beach!

It is easy to get lost in the fact that we cant always have things the way we want. In this case it is complete access to the beach or being able to drive on it, but having a clean and healthy beach is important. Having a variety of species in an ecosystem is how this health is kept. We are apart of that ecosystem and have been since the beginning if time. So lets work together, oh and enjoy the beach!

Adult Piping Plovers

Piping Plover Sitting on her nest!

New born Piping Plovers

Teenage Piping Plovers


All Photos were taken by Adrian Adams, all rights are reserved by photographer

Personal Experience from Work

Piping plover. Audubon. (2023, April 13).

Vinelli, R. (n.d.). Charadrius melodus (piping plover). Animal Diversity Web.;~:text=Economic%20Importance%20for%20Humans%3A%20Positive&text=The%20Piping%20Plover%20also%20controls,small%20crustacean%20populations%20on%20beaches.

Dunn, J. L., Alderfer, J. K., & Lehman, P. E. (2008). National Geographic Field Guide to the birds of eastern north america. National Geographic.

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