Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus)

The Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus) is a tiny shore bird that measures 5.5 inches in length, with orange legs and a stubby little bill. Generally, the adults have white faces with a black stripe across their forehead and a thick band of black across their breast. Some adults have paler breast bands, and at times they are not complete. Their bills can range between an orange bill that becomes dark at the point to just a dark bill. They have white bellies, while their upper body parts such as wings are gray to sandy colored, and it is the complete coloring of the Piping Plover that allows them to blend in with their surroundings.

This shore bird is treated as an endangered bird species in Canada and the United States. It only breeds in three geographic areas in North America, namely the East Coast, the Great Lakes region and on the Northern Great Plains. Piping Plovers prefer gravel beaches, coastal areas, prairie lakes and specific saline lakes and river sandbars. The nesting habits of the Piping Plover greatly depend on the level of water and the surrounding vegetation. Human activity along the coastal areas has also interfered with the nesting. Artificial nesting sites have been established to encourage nesting, but these have not proven to be successful. Although Piping Plovers are known to be able to live for 14 years, most Plovers don’t survive for more than five.

Piping Plovers feed on aquatic invertebrates, which the Plovers pick up with their bills by probing the shore-lines and pecking alternatively as the run and stop. Nests are created by scraping hollows into the ground and then lining these with bits of seashells, bone fragments and small pebbles. Piping Plovers will only have one partner during the breeding season, and will only select a new partner in the next season. Females are able to re-nest if the eggs are destroyed. She will lay about four eggs that are pale with black speckles. The 26 to 28 day incubation period is shared between the parents and within 20 to 25 days the chicks will be able to take short flights, with full flight capabilities at 27 days. If a Piping Plover feels that its nest is being threatened by any form of predator, they will fake injury to lead the danger away. Chicks will crouch into a motionless position to avoid detection from the danger. The female will leave the nest before the family disperses, leaving the male to attend to the chicks until they fledge the nest.