piping ploer (en); batuíra-melodiosa (pt); pluvier siffleur (fr); playero melódico (es); gelbfuß-regenpfeifer (de)
The piping plover breeds in the central prairies of the United States and Canada and along the north-east coast of the United States. They winter in the south and south-east coast of the United States and in both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of northern Mexico.
This stout plover is 17-18 cm long and has a wingspan of 46-48 cm. They weigh 43-48 g.
It nests on sandy beaches, sandflats, barrier islands, alkali lakes, riverine sand/gravel bars, reservoirs, and sand/gravel pits. Ephemeral pools, bay tidal flats and areas of open vegetation are all important brood-rearing habitats. They winter in sandy bays, lagoons, and both algal and muddy tidalflats.
Piping plovers eat a variety of aquatic marine worms, insects, mollusks and crustaceans. They forage by day and by night, always using their acute sight to hunt their prey.
They start nesting in April. The male begins digging out several scrapes on the ground by kicking the sand. The female will choose a good scrape and will decorate the nest with shells and debris to camouflage it. There the female lays 4 eggs which are incubated by both parents for 27 days. After hatching, the chicks are able to feed within hours. The parents will both protect the chicks from the elements by brooding them, they will also alert them to any danger. It takes about 30 days before a chick achieves flight capability.
IUCN status – NT (Near threatened)
The piping plover global population is currently estimated at just 6.400 individuals. The population declined by more than 70% in the last 4 decades, but it is now increasing a result of intensive conservation management. The main threats affecting this species are droughts, inappropriate water and beach management, gas/oil industry dredging operations, development, shoreline stabilization and beach disturbance (including cat and dog predation).