Piping plover

Latin Name
Charadrius melodus

Class
Birds

Order
Charadriiformes

Description

The piping plover is a small shorebird, reaching approximately seven inches in length. During breeding season, males and females have a white underside, brown back and wings, and thick black bands around the neck and atop the crest of the head. During nonbreeding season, the black bands become less pronounced.


 

Range

East Coast, Great Lakes Region and Midwest of the United States and Canada


Status

The piping plover is listed as endangered in some areas (Canada, the inland United States) and threatened in others (along the East Coast). The birds' habit of nesting on the open beach leaves their eggs vulnerable to construction and human activity.


Habitat

Sandy beaches and shallow wetlands


Niche

The piping plover feeds primarily on insects and small aquatic invertebrates. The species hunts by sight, chasing down prey on the sand and grasping it with its beak.


Life History

Male piping plovers attract mates through elaborate courtship ceremonies, including stone tossing and courtship flights featuring repeated dives. The species nests on the open beach, laying four eggs in shallow scrapes in the sand. The eggs' speckled coating helps them blend into the sand, making them difficult to see. Such open nesting leaves the bird's eggs vulnerable to beach construction as well as visiting dogs and people.


Special Adaptations
  • Piping plovers with offspring will perform an elaborate "broken wing" display when the nest is threatened to draw danger away from the nest.
  • The piping plover's coloring helps it blend in to its surroundings.


Bonus Content

Zoological Manager of Birds Sunny Nelson shares her trip to Pellston, Michigan to help rear piping plover chicks hatched from eggs incubated from abandoned nests.

Rescuing Piping Plovers
Zoological Manager of Birds Sunny Nelson shares her trip to Pellston, Michigan to help rear piping plover chicks hatched from eggs incubated from abandoned nests.

 

 


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