Piping Plovers flock to the same shores that attract people. These birds are on the brink, with only 8,000 adults left. From Canada to the Caribbean, Audubon is working to safeguard sandy reaches critical to the birds' survival, and encouraging people to share the beach.
The piping plover (Charadrius melodus) is a small sand-colored, sparrow-sized shorebird that nests and feeds along coastal sand and gravel beaches in North America. The adult has yellow-orange legs, a black band across the forehead from eye to eye, and a black ring around the neck. This chest band is usually thicker in males during the breeding season, and it's the only reliable way to tell the sexes apart. The bird is difficult to see when it is standing still, as it blends well with open, sandy beach habitats. It typically runs in short spurts and stops.
There are 2 subspecies of Piping Plovers: the eastern population is known as Charadrius melodus melodus and the mid-west population is known as Charadrius melodus circumcinctus. The bird's name is derived from its plaintive bell-like whistles which are often heard before the bird is visible.
Total population is currently estimated at about 6,510 individuals. A preliminary estimate showed 3,350 birds in 2003 on the Atlantic Coast alone, 52% of the total. The population has been increasing since 1999.
Their breeding habitat includes beaches or sand flats on the Atlantic coast, the shores of the Great Lakes, and in the mid-west of Canada and the United States. They nest on sandy or gravel beaches or shoals. These shorebirds forage for food on beaches, usually by sight, moving across the beaches in short bursts. Generally, Piping Plovers will forage for food around the high tide wrack zone and along the water's edge. They eat mainly insects, marine worms, and crustaceans.