2015-06-01 / Community

Why The Piping Plover Is In Danger

By Susan Suarez
Friends of Lovers Key

One of my favorite birds is the small Piping Plover. I love to sit on the beach and watch as these little tan and white birds run back and forth, chasing the edges of small waves and searching the wet sand for small creatures carried by the tide.

Their quick, darting movement is both beautiful and intriguing to observe. Piping Plovers will more likely run along the beach than fly when disturbed because their well-camouflaged, pale tan backs blend in with the sand. When they fly, their white underside is more visible which can make them more vulnerable.

The Piping Plover is named for its melodic mating call. They are found at Lovers Key during the winter but breed in other parts of North America, including the Atlantic coast, the Great Lakes area and along rivers and wetlands of the northern Great Plains.

In recent decades, Piping Plover populations have drastically declined, especially in the Great Lakes where their breeding habitat has been replaced with shoreline development and recreation. Their populations have also declined from direct and unintentional harassment by people, dogs, and vehicles, destruction of beach habitat for development, and changes in water level regulations elsewhere where Piping Plovers are found.

Piping Plover can be seen at Lovers Key however its populaWhen tions have drastically declined. 
Pamela Jones-Morton Piping Piping Plover can be seen at Lovers Key however its populaWhen tions have drastically declined. Pamela Jones-Morton Piping Thankfully to help conserve these amazing birds, Piping Plovers are included in the 2014 State of the Birds Watch List, which lists species most in danger of extinction without significant conservation action. This species is listed as endangered in the United States inland and in Canada, and listed as threatened along the coast in the United States.

Availability of quality foraging and roosting habitat along the beaches of Florida, including Lovers Key State Park, provide vital wintering grounds which are necessary in order to ensure that an adequate number of adults survive and are able to migrate to breeding sites and successfully nest.

If you see a Piping Plover on the beach, make sure to stop and take a moment to marvel at these incredible birds, but most importantly, walk around them so they are not disturbed. When resting birds along our beaches are disturbed (i.e. they run away or take flight because they are being flushed by people, dogs, vehicles, etc.) they use up vital reserves of energy they need for their long migrations.

If You Go

Lovers Key

This 712-acre Florida State Park embraces Lovers Key and three other barrier islands: Black Key, Inner and Long Key. Visitors can hike or bike along the trails, comb the beaches, swim, kayak, fish or watch wildlife. The park is open from 8 a.m. to sunset every day of the year. For more info visit friendsofloverskey.org

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