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Piping Plovers

Updated on March 6, 2015

A Look into the Endangered Shorebird, the Piping Plover

These small and dwindling shorebirds have been the brunt of some controversial beach closings and laws. However, the Piping Plover still remains endangered, and thanks to these laws, has made a little bit of a comeback.

Piping Plover Picture by Len Blumin.

What do Piping Plovers Look Like?

How to spot these rare birds!

Piping plovers are usually only about 7 inches long and area sandy-gray colored plumage, with white underparts. Breeding birds typically have a single black breastband and black bar on the forehead. The legs are a bright orange. It camouflages nicely with the sand to help evade predators. Colors fade in the winter months.

More Endangered Species...

All of these species are endangered. Read up and educate yourself about what's threatened.

Where do Piping Plovers Live?

Find out where you can see these beautiful birds!

Piping Plovers are known to live in 3 vicinities: the Atlantic Coast, Great Lakes, and Northern Great Plains. The Great Plains variety is the most critically endangered. The Audubon site states there are approximately 6400 Piping Plover left in North America. Due to conservation efforts, this number is higher than the 1986 numbers. Texas, Florida, and Lousiana have the highest population of plovers.

Piping Plovers prefer nesting in small, sparsely vegetated, sandy, low-lying dunescapes. After arriving between March and May, the plovers will remain for 3-4 months to nest. Short, shallow depressions in the rocky sand are the perfect camouflage for the rock-colored eggs. Eggs are incubated for 30 days by both parents. After incubation, the new plover chicks are fed by the parents for a month until they are flight-ready. The birds then migrate for the wintering grounds between July and October.

What do they Eat?

Plovers eat worms, insects and small crustaceans in the soft, wet sand. As you can see in the video below, the birds will run for the newly wet sand to find food. They run in spurts, stopping short all the time, making it difficult for predators and humans to spot them.

Piping Plover Tote Bag - Piping plover canvas tote bag - great gift for birders and ocean goers!

Piping Plover Tote Bag

This 100% cotton canvas tote bag is a perfect gift idea for birders, and a great way to show your love this cute shorebird! Great for grocery shopping, for work, school, and as a gift. Features a hand drawn image of a Piping Plover on both sides. Machine washable and durable, this tote also holds quite a bit!

Piping Plover Videos on YouTube

Piping Plover Poll

Have you ever seen a Piping Plover?

See results

Beaches Closed for Plovers

Controversy over beach closures for these endangered birds

There have been several beaches and areas closed for the conservation of the Piping Plover species. Beaches in Rhode Island and Massachusetts have been completely closed at times to save the rare bird. This is a controversial move, often met with plenty of critique and praise at the same time. However, since the Piping Plover was declared threatened in 1986 and conservation tactics have been implemented, the numbers have increased in some areas.

How can you help to save Piping Plovers?

Preservation of popular, known nesting sites, obeying posted signs and fencing around plover nests, and following restrictions on loose, roaming pets (one of the Piping Plover's predators) will ensure their ability to reproduce. Spreading the word through public education is necessary to continue these efforts. Follow the links below to find out more about the Piping Plover and what you can do to help.

Piping Plover Fact...

The Audubon site states there are only approximately 6400 Piping Plover left in North America.

Seen a Piping Plover lately? Have some thoughts about this lens? Be sure to leave them here!

Have You Spotted a Piping Plover Recently? - Check in with your sightings of this endangered bird!

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    • Shorebirdie profile image


      7 years ago from San Diego, CA

      I live in California and they sometimes, very rarely, the visit the Salton Sea area. We have a similar situation with our western Snowy Plover. We close parts of beaches, but people absolutely insist on letting their dogs run through the nesting areas! One guy even got violent about it last year.

    • dustytoes profile image


      8 years ago

      I'll bet I've seen this bird at one point, but don't recall. Thanks for the introduction to it. Blessed.

    • Shorebirdie profile image


      9 years ago from San Diego, CA

      Wow, I had no idea how critically low their numbers were. So, the parents feed the chicks at the nest or do the chicks forage for food on their own? I have a piping plover care manual that talks about encouraging them to forage by putting wiggly worms in a dish.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      What a delightfully cute little bird!

    • naturegirl7s profile image

      Yvonne L B 

      10 years ago from Covington, LA

      Another interesting and informative lens from a great lensmaster. Welcome to the Naturally Native Squids group. Don't forget to add your lens link to the appropriate plexo and vote for it.

    • K Linda profile image

      K Linda 

      10 years ago

      I adore those little birds. I have photographed them many times...they are so adorable. I didn't know until now that they are endangered. I've seen lots of them on Cocoa Beach, FL. Great lens. I'm lensrolling it and, of course, 5*'s.

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      First time I have heard of this bird - that is what I love about squidoo - you learn something new every day!


    • ElizabethJeanAl profile image


      11 years ago

      Great Lens! The Piping Plover is a pretty little bird. I've looked for one among the shorebirds here in SC but I've never spotted one.

      5 Stars and lensroll


    • carrieokier profile image


      11 years ago

      Nice lens. Very important topic. Thanks for the info! 5*

    • evelynsaenz1 profile image

      Evelyn Saenz 

      11 years ago from Royalton

      The Bluebird of Happiness loved your lens so much that she is sending you a virtual Heart Shaped Waffle and a cup of coffee to hang on your wall.

      We used to watch the Piping Plovers on Plum Island in Mass.

    • sisterra profile image


      11 years ago

      wonderful lens

    • Karendelac profile image


      11 years ago

      Great lens. 5 Stars. I would like to thank you for visiting my bird rescue lens. Great info on these beautiful birds.

      Please visit and rate my titanic lens wich won lens of the year

    • EvieJewelry profile image


      11 years ago

      Great lens. We have controversy every year about beach closings for the piping plovers on Hatteras Island on the Outer Banks NC. Drive on the beach or save an endangered species ? Wouldn't seem to have to be much of a controversy now would it ? Keep up the good work.

    • Classic LM profile image

      Classic LM 

      11 years ago

      Hi Kiwi! I gave you 5*s! I enjoyed reviewing your lens. Thanks for submitting this to my group Nature and Environment! Classic

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      Another terrific lens close to my heart! I love sea creatures and being a born and raised RI'r, I know first hand just how special these tiny little guys are! Thanks. :)

    • clouda9 lm profile image

      clouda9 lm 

      11 years ago

      I did not know about this bird until I read this lens. Great information! While living in Gulfport, MS...many moons ago :) there were protected sites along the beaches for Tern's. I see from a Google search that they are still on the list.


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