Named for their chirpy mating call, Piping Plovers Charadrius melodus are a short and stocky species of shorebird that blend in very well on sandy beaches. These birds are built to hide in plain sight. Their coloration and small size makes it very difficult for predators such as foxes to detect these animals on the beach. Their eggs are also sand-colored, almost invisible to the naked eye without proper training. Piping Plovers spend their days running around at the shoreline of sandy beaches, feeding on small insects and crustaceans. They prefer to scurry across the sand rather than take flight.
These Plovers forage for invertebrates within 16 feet of the water’s edge. They peck and probe into the soft ground for marine worms, small crustaceans, flies, water beetles, snails, and roundworms among others.
Piping Plovers spend their Winters in the Southeast US, Mexico, and Caribbean, where they can escape the cold and juveniles can grow. During the Spring and Summer, the plovers migrate to the Northeast United States, Great Lakes, and Canada to breed on the sandy shorelines there. These shorebirds lay 4 eggs on their first attempt, and if their nest fails (they have to abandon it because of predators, tides, etc) they will lay a second nest of 3 eggs. To defend their chicks, adult piping plovers will pretend to display a ‘broken wing’ when predators are nearby in an attempt to draw them away from their chicks.
Piping Plovers are listed by the IUCN Red List as Near Threatened by the IUCN Red List, because they are threatened by a cocktail of human influences. Drought, inappropriate water and beach management, gas / oil industry dredging operations, development, shoreline stabilisation and beach disturbance (including cat and dog predation, and possibly that from native avian species and ghost crabs) are all key threats.