Comprehensive Guide to selected species of:
Birds of the Boreal Forest « back to Guide
Piping Plover Charadrius melodus
Family: Plovers, Charadriidae
Audio: Martyn Stewart, © Naturesound.org
An estimated 16% of the species' North American breeding range lies within the Boreal Forest.
Description 6-7" (15-18 cm). A pale plover with sandy upperparts, narrow, incomplete black breast band, stubby bill with an orange base, and yellowish legs. Young birds are similar, with black bill and broken gray breast band. Snowy Plover has thin black bill and black legs. Semipalmated Plover has much darker upperparts.
Endangered Status The Piping Plover is on the U.S. Endangered Species List. It is classified as endangered in the Great Lakes watershed in the states of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. It is classified as threatened in other parts of these states and in all other states within its range (Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, and Virginia). With the rapid expansion of summer resorts and other development along the Atlantic Coast and the Great Lakes shorelines, many of the former nesting sites have been destroyed. Human-related activity on beaches has also proven detrimental to this species. In 1985 the Great Lakes breeding population had been reduced to just 17 pairs, and their only breeding grounds, once spread over eight states, were in northern Michigan. Currently their numbers are on the rise. Efforts are being made to protect both breeding habitat and wintering habitat (which is mainly along the Gulf coast) for this shorebird.
Habitat Bare, dry, sandy areas, both inland and on the coast.
Nesting 4 buff-white eggs, evenly marked with small dark spots, in a depression in the sand lined with pebbles and bits of shells.
Voice A clear, whistled peep-lo.
Range Breeds along Atlantic Coast from Quebec and Newfoundland south to North Carolina, and locally from Alberta east to Minnesota and Great Lakes. Winters on Atlantic and Gulf coasts, north regularly to Carolinas.
Discussion The color of dry sand, the Piping Plover is difficult to see on the beach. The eggs and downy chicks also blend with the sand. The Piping Plover arrives much earlier in spring and departs for the South much earlier in fall than does the Semipalmated Plover.