The piping plover is listed as endangered in the Great Lakes region.
The Music Making Bird of the Beaches
The piping plover’s melodious song, a series of whistled peeps ending with a ringing peep-lo, is referenced both in its common and scientific names. The songster is a relatively small bird, averaging 7.25 inches in length with a 19-inch wingspan, weighing only 1.9 ounces. Native to sandy beaches, where it feeds mostly on insects and small aquatic animals, the piping plover has three nesting locations: shorelines of the Great Lakes, shores of rivers and lakes in the northern Great Plains, and the Atlantic coast. In the fall, they migrate to the coast of Mexico or other southern locations.
The plover nests in sandy hollows on the beach, usually laying four eggs, which incubate between 25 and 31 days. If they survive, hatchlings are independent after 25-31 days. Their nests are extremely vulnerable to disturbance and predation. Adults will abandon disturbed nests, eggs are sometimes crushed by vehicles and pedestrians, and nests are ransacked by a variety of predators. However, the main threat to the bird is habitat loss as coastal beaches are increasingly developed for residential, commercial and industrial uses.
The piping plover has been listed as Endangered in the Great Lakes region and threatened in other areas since 1986. Populations have since significantly increased, but the species remains in serious danger. Current conservation strategies include identification and preservation of known nesting sites, public education, and limiting free-ranging cats and dogs near breeding pairs.