Piping Plover

Charadrius melodus

  • Version: 2.0 — Published November 1, 2004
  • Elise Elliott-Smith and Susan M. Haig

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Figure 1. Distribution of Piping Plover.
Adult male Piping Plover, breeding plumage; New Jersey, June

Note pronounced black collar and breast band, and forehead marking, typical of males of this species in breeding (Definitive Alternate) plumage. Cape May Point, NJ (June 1996). ; photographer Jerry and Sherry Liguori

Adult female Piping Plover, breeding plumage; Massachusetts, June

Note paler, less pronounced collar and forehead marking, typical of females of this species in breeding (Definitive Alternate) plumage; Martha's Vineyard, MA; photographer Marie Reed

The Piping Plover is a threatened and endangered shorebird that inhabits wide, open beaches, alkali flats, and sandflats of North America. It breeds primarily along the Atlantic coast from North Carolina to eastern Canada and the French Islands of Saint Pierre and Miquelon, inland along rivers and wetlands of the northern Great Plains from Nebraska to the southern Prairie Provinces, and along portions of the western Great Lakes in the U.S. and western Ontario. In winter, most individuals are found on coastal beaches, sandflats, and mudflats from the Carolinas to Yucatan; some scatter through the Bahamas and West Indies.

This plover is divided into two subspecies based on geographic distribution, presence or absence of complete neck bands, and mitochondrial DNA (SMH). Numerous studies have been conducted across the species' range, and conservation efforts are well organized in breeding areas across North America. Several recent efforts have also focused on winter areas. Its coexistence with human use of beaches is increasingly dependent on management: fencing nests, restricting off-road vehicle access, and predator control. Fewer than 3,000 breeding pairs of Piping Plovers were detected in the U.S. and Canada in 2001 (see Table 1).

Recommended Citation

Elliott-Smith, E. and S. M. Haig (2004). Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (A. F. Poole, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bna.2