The Piping Plover was once a fairly common sight along Atlantic
coast beaches, Great Lakes beaches, and interior river sandbars, but is now
threatened or endangered throughout its entire range. In South Dakota,
nesting activity is primarily on Missouri River sandbars, where successful
nesting is threatened by controlled water levels in the state's
reservoirs. Human disturbance on Great Lakes and Atlantic beaches also has
had a severe impact on Piping Plover populations.
Habitat: Needs open sandy areas
near water for nesting. In the interior of the country, this is often on
sandbars of major rivers, as well as the sandy beaches of the Great Lakes.
Sandy beaches along the shoreline are used along the Atlantic Coast.
Diet: Aquatic and terrestrial insects, small
crustaceans and mollusks, and marine worms
Nesting: May through July. The nest is a simple
scrape in the sand, sometimes lined with bits of rock or shell. The female
lays 4 eggs, and both parents help to incubate them. After the eggs hatch,
both parents help tend to the young, but the young leave the nest after just a
few hours, and must find their own food.
Migration: Summers along major rivers in the Great Plains of the U.S. and southern Canada,
as well as Great Lakes and Atlantic Seaboard beaches. Winters along the
Atlantic and Gulf coasts.
Conservation Status: Piping Plovers are
threatened or endangered throughout their entire range. Once a fairly
common breeder on Great Lakes beaches, they are now nearly extirpated from the
region. Regulation of water on rivers affects inland birds attempting to
nest on sand bars. Atlantic coastline beach nesters are severely impacted
by human activity. On a global basis,
the IUCN lists the
Piping Plover as a "Near Threatened" species.
Cornell University's "All About Birds - Piping Plover"
Image Information: Color pencil drawing by Terry Sohl