Living Bird Magazine
Piping PloverCharadrius melodus
- ORDER: Charadriiformes
- FAMILY: Charadriidae
Little round Piping Plovers hide in plain sight on sandy ocean and lake shores, blending right in with their sandy gray backs. It's not until they scurry down the sand on their orange legs that you're likely to spot these big-eyed shorebirds with a sharp black collar and an orange bill. They nest in soft sand away from the water's edge along the Atlantic Coast, Great Plains, and Great Lakes. They are endangered due to habitat loss, disturbance, and predation.More ID Info
Find This Bird
Unlike other shorebirds, Piping Plovers forage alone or in small groups and they tend to stay a bit farther from the water's edge. When they aren't foraging, they are masters of camouflage, so it takes a bit of intense looking in soft sandy areas away from the water to spot them. Sometimes they crouch down in a tire track or footprint in the sand and virtually disappear. Scan these areas with your binoculars as the birds are easy to miss with the naked eye. Piping Plovers are on the U.S. endangered species list, so if you see one don't get too close. If one starts frantically calling or feigning injury, back away carefully as there may be an almost invisible nest nearby.
- Chorlitejo Silbador (Spanish)
- Pluvier siffleur (French)
- Cool Facts
- Despite traveling hundreds of miles between wintering and breeding sites, many Piping Plovers return to the same sites to breed and to spend the winter. Individuals that return to breed with the same mate often nest within 128 feet of the previous nest site. Birds breeding in the Great Lakes spend the winter in South Carolina and Georgia, whereas most birds from eastern Canada head to North Carolina for the winter.
- Everyone needs a secret beach hideout. Researchers only recently discovered that more than one-third of the Piping Plover population that breeds along the Atlantic coast spends the winter in the Bahamas.
- The saying that the early bird gets the worm is true for Piping Plovers. Pairs that nest early are more likely to successfully raise young than those that nest later in the season.
- Intruders near a Piping Plover nest are chased and may be pecked or bitten. In Manitoba, one Killdeer was observed entering a Piping Plover territory where it was bitten so hard on the leg that it limped for the rest of the summer.
- The oldest recorded Piping Plover was at least 16 years old when it was recaptured and rereleased in 2015 during banding operations in North Dakota. It had been banded in Saskatchewan in 1999.