Wild Birds

Piping Plovers

The Piping Plovers (Charadrius melodus) is a small plover.


The Piping Plover is a sand-colored, sparrow-sized shorebird that nests and feeds along coastal sand and gravel beaches.

The adult has yellow-orange legs, a black band across the forehead from eye to eye, and a black ring around the neck during the breeding season. It runs in short starts and stops.

It is difficult to see when standing still as it blends well with open, sandy beach habitats.

Distribution / Range

Their breeding habitat is beaches or sand flats on the Atlantic coast, the shores of the Great Lakes, and in the mid-west of Canada and the United States. They nest on sandy or gravel beaches or sandbars.

They are migratory in northern areas and winter on the coasts of the Gulf of Mexico, the southern Atlantic coast of the United States, and the West Indies.

This bird is endangered and its range has reduced recently due to habitat loss and human activity near nesting sites. Some critical nesting habitat is now protected. In coastal areas such as Cape Cod, beach access by ORVs is prohibited near nesting piping plovers – a cause of some conflict over the years – as a result of management plans.

In Eastern Canada, the Piping Plover is only found on coastal beaches. In 1985 it was declared an endangered species by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.

In 1986 it was declared to be endangered within the watershed of the Great Lakes and threatened in the remainder of its range in the United States, which resulted in the permanent closing of Moonstone Beach in South Kingston, Rhode Island.

Diet / Feeding

These shorebirds forage for food on beaches, usually by sight, moving across the beaches in short bursts. They mainly eat insects, marine worms, and crustaceans.


The bird’s name is derived from its plaintive bell-like whistles which are often heard before the bird is visible.


Gordon Ramel

Gordon is an ecologist with two degrees from Exeter University. He's also a teacher, a poet and the owner of 1,152 books. Oh - and he wrote this website.

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