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Piping Plover

Charadrius melodus ORDER: CHARADRIIFORMES FAMILY: CHARADRIIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Near Threatened

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.

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.

Get Involved

Help clean up a beach near you on International Coastal Cleanup Day. Learn more at Ocean Conservancy.

You Might Also Like

Bird-Friendly Tips for Coastal Habitat, YardMap, April 20, 2011.

Shorebird Foraging Strategies [video], Bird Academy.

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