The piping plover (Charadrius melodus) is a small bird that is typically found along the sand beaches of North America. The bird is nearly the size of a sparrow and the black band that goes across its neck makes it rather unique among other birds. One cannot see it especially when the bird stands still because the greyish plumage blends with the sandy background.
Piping Plover Facts
- The piping plover is mainly recognized by the dull grey plumage that is ideal for providing camouflage against predators.
- The plover has got study neck and rounded head. The head is large in proportion to the body size.
- It has rather stubby bill. There is a black band that runs across its forehead. Outside the breeding season, the black band goes a little dull.
- The plover reaches an overall length of about 15–19 cm (5.9–7.5 in) and weighs up to 42–64 g (1.5–2.3 oz).
- They have wingspan of 35–41 cm (14–16 in).
- Piping plover has two subspecies; one breeds along the Atlantic coast while the other feeds along the Great Plains.
Range & Habitat
- The piping plover is thought to nest on sandy beaches of North America. They feed on beaches all throughout the life. Piping plovers make homes on rocky shores and sandy beaches which are several meters away from water.
- The plover also occurs on the Atlantic Coast off Canada and United States. They occupy habitats on the bay beaches of Great Lakes shores.
- Plovers will build their nests on the higher side of the beach which contains beach grass.
- They are mostly seen when they migrate south to Bahamas. The plover’s migration takes place during winter.
Feeding Ecology & Behavior
- Piping plovers are sandy birds that breed all along the gravel and open beaches. They also nest on alkali flats.
- They prefer to spend winter days on mud flats and sand beaches.
- Migrant plovers rarely visit the lake shores or alkali flats.
- Piping plovers eat many aquatic animals that come to the surface such as mollusks, marine worms, spiders, crustaceans, and insects.
- They are found in small groups of 3 – 4 individuals. However the group size reaches 100 when the food is available on the favored sites.
- If a human attempts to get too close to the plover it may run instead of flying.
- Plovers are highly aggressive when they defend their chicks.
Reproductive Biology & Migration
- During winter, piping plovers migrate south to the southern Atlantic coast, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean. Similarly as the winter approaches, the bird flies toward north.
- The plover migrates north in mid-March.
- Piping plover’s range extends northern South Carolina and the southern Newfoundland.
- The mating season begins in late March. Male plovers claims territories and after mating males search many scrapes (nest) on the higher shore that is abundant in grass. The male will show these scrapes to the female who chooses the best of the scrapes. Once scrapes are selected the female covers the nest with these scrapes to camouflage it. The mating starts soon after the nesting.
- A female deposits 4 eggs in the late April but not all eggs are laid in one day. She lays an egg a day—four eggs mean four days.
- Both parents share the incubation that lasts about 27 days.
- Chicks will begin feeding hours after hatching. Both parents guard the chicks. Chicks will not fly until one month after which they take their first flight at least 50 yards (46 meters).
- There are few predators that hunt piping plover’s eggs. These include foxes, crows, raccoons, and cats.
- The total population of piping plovers is 6,510.