Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus)
The piping plover is a small, sparrow sized shorebird that has a melodious song with an organ like sound, hence its species name melodus. They are the first to arrive at breeding grounds and make beautiful nests on beach shores above the high tide mark during mating season in early to mid March. Piping plovers forage along beach shores for marine worms, insect larvae, crustaceans and other small marine life. Extensive hunting and habitat loss due to increased waterfront development have driven the piping plover to near extinction; this species is currently on the New York State Department for Environmental Conservation endangered list and is considered to be threatened at at the federal level.
Piping plovers are found on dry sandy beaches during breeding season in early to mid march. They are distributed along the Atlantic Coastline ranging from Newfoundland to NorthCarolina, and are found on inland beaches along Lake Ontario. Currently there are three populations that exist along the east coast, on the upper Great Lakes, and the major river systems and wetlands of the northern Great Plains. Piping plovers breed in New York on the sandy beeches of Long Island and in bays and harbors of northern Suffolk County. Winters are spent along the coastal areas from Texas to North Carolina and can seldomly be found in the Bahamas and Greater Antilles (Cuba and surrounding islands).
Body: Pale grey upper body with a white underside and bright orange legs. In the spring and summer, piping plovers have a single black neck band with a narrow black band across their forehead. In the winter, the distinctive black markings on the piping plover fade and their legs fade to a paler yellow color and their bill becomes black .
Size: Piping plovers grow to be about 5-6 inches in length and weigh about 1-2 ounces.
Piping plover males court females during mating season by flying overhead and swooping down close to the ground. Nests are selected and protected by males and females usually lay a total of only 4 eggs per season. Once eggs hatch chicks forage for food for themselves with no help from their parents.
Title photo: (http://www.larkwire.com/). Habitat/Distribution map: (dec.ny.gov)Identification photo: (http://blog.nwf.org/)
“Piping Plover – Charadrius Melodus.” Nhptv.org. Nature Works New Hampshire Public Television, n.d. Web. 19 Aug. 2015. <http://www.nhptv.org/natureworks/pipingplover.htm>.
“Piping Plover Fact Sheet.” Dec.ny.gov. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, n.d. Web. 19 Aug. 2015. <http://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/7086.html>.