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Piping Plovers in Plymouth

Plymouth is proud to host the rare and federally threatened piping plover in the spring and summer when it nests and raises its chicks right on the beach in the sand. Piping plovers had been nesting here for thousands of years when the Pilgrims arrived and we hope they’ll be here for thousands more. You can help by learning a little about them and following a few rules.

Piping plovers return from their wintering grounds in the Bahamas in March to set up their territories and scrape depressions in the sand that are their nests. They usually lay four eggs and these and the chicks are so well camouflaged that you could step on one and not know it. The chicks are tiny; they have been described as “cotton balls on toothpick legs.” Despite their size, the chicks must start running around and feeding themselves just a day after hatching and need safety to do so.

At about 30 days old, the chicks can fly, but they remain on our beaches, along with their parents, eating as much as they can to fatten up for their migration south. By the beginning of September, almost all of the piping plovers have left.

You can have a positive impact and can do your part to take care of piping plovers by following these simple rules:

  • Respect all areas fenced or posted for protection of wildlife, so you don’t step on one or scare it away from its eggs or young. If eggs are left alone, they can overheat or chill, or be eaten by a predator.
  • Watch birds from a distance to avoid disturbing them as they feed and rest.
  • Remove all trash from the beach, even apple cores and dropped chips, and do not feed any birds or other wildlife. Animals that are attracted to your garbage or handouts, such as gulls, raccoons and crows, will also eat piping plovers and their eggs. Also, most human food is unhealthy for animals.
  • Fly kites away from plover areas. To a plover, a large object in the sky might be a hawk or owl or crow coming to eat them or their chicks, so they go into defensive mode instead of incubating eggs or feeding.
  • Keep your dog leashed while on the beach and follow all posted rules about where they may be taken. For instance, no dogs are allowed on Long Beach past Day Parking from April 1 through Sept. 30.

Most of Plymouth’s piping plovers nest on Long Beach. For a map and a list of rules and regulations, visit http://www.plymouth-ma.gov/sites/plymouthma/files/uploads/plbpamphlet2013.pdf or http://www.plymouth-ma.gov/sites/plymouthma/files/uploads/longbeach.pdf

For all information about Long Beach, visit http://www.plymouth-ma.gov/marine-and-environmental-affairs/pages/long-beach-information

To learn more about piping plovers, visit https://www.nps.gov/caco/learn/nature/the-piping-plover.htm

Photos:

Adult piping plover, piping plover chicks