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Piping Plover Charadrius melodus


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Piping Plover, breeding. C. m. circumcinctus, Great Plains subspecies
credit: Mdf/CCSA

© Lang Elliot/ (audio)

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Family: Charadriidae, Plovers view all from this family

Description ADULT MALE In summer, has mainly pale sandy upperparts and white underparts. Note narrow black collar and (usually incomplete) breast band, and black band on forehead. Legs are orange and dainty orange bill is black-tipped. In winter, black elements of plumage are brown and bill is dark. ADULT FEMALE In summer is similar to male, but black elements of plumage are brown. In winter, resembles winter male. JUVENILE Similar to winter adult.

Dimensions Length: 6-7" (15-18 cm)

Endangered Status The Piping Plover is on the U.S. Endangered Species List. It is classified as endangered in the Great Lakes watershed in the states of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. It is classified as threatened in other parts of these states and in all other states within its range (Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, and Virginia). With the rapid expansion of summer resorts and other development along the Atlantic Coast and the Great Lakes shorelines, many of the former nesting sites have been destroyed. Human-related activity on beaches has also proven detrimental to this species. In 1985 the Great Lakes breeding population had been reduced to just 17 pairs, and their only breeding grounds, once spread over eight states, were in northern Michigan. Currently their numbers are on the rise. Efforts are being made to protect both breeding habitat and wintering habitat (which is mainly along the Gulf coast) for this shorebird.

Habitat Scarce and endangered. In summer, favors drying margins of Great Plains lakes and beaches of northeastern Atlantic coast; breeding success badly affected by disturbance from humans and their dogs and cats. In winter, moves mostly to Gulf coast sandy beaches.

Observation Tips Easiest to spot when it runs. To minimize disturbance, look for it in winter.

Range Southeast, Eastern Canada, Plains, Rocky Mountains, Great Lakes, Texas, Mid-Atlantic, New England, Florida, Western Canada

Voice Utters a piping peep-lo.

Discussion Another pale and endangered plover. Easily told from Snowy by orange (not blackish) legs and orange base to bill in summer adults (otherwise dark, and similar to Snowy). Runs in short bursts at great speed; hard to locate when it stops because it blends so well with favored sandy habitats. Sexes are separable with care.