Daily Bird: Piping Plover
May 29, 2020
Edited from a version published in 2014
Piping Plovers live out in the open but can be hard to find. They attract a lot of attention but can be found only on certain beaches. They nest from Greenwich to Stonington but are rare enough — only 57 pairs in Connecticut last year — to warrant listing as a federal and state-threatened species.
And they are among the species in the state that are benefiting fdirectly from habitat management and protection that your membership and donations help make possible.
Look for them at the Milford Point Coastal Center, Long Beach in Stratford, Griswold Point in Old Lyme, and Sandy Point in West Haven.
Check the open sandy areas of the beach where the tide breaks; Piping Plovers forage for invertebrates along this zone of the coastline. Be patient. These birds are so well camouflaged that you could easily miss them, especially when they are standing still. Keep your eyes out for movement; they’ll typically toggle between very rapid starts and stops.
Not only be patient, but be cautious. Please respect the law and do not cross any string fencing or posted areas that protect plovers from human disturbance.
Those barriers are the work of the Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds. Your membership and donations help support Connecticut Audubon’s involvement in the Alliance. It is largely responsible for the relative success Piping Plovers have had in Connecticut in recent years.
Piping Plovers nest above the high tide line, close to dunes or in areas of beach grass. Their nests are very inconspicuous; mere scrapes in the sand with sand-colored eggs.
Once you focus your binoculars or scope on one, look at the sand-colored, brownish-gray plumage above, white below and two distinctive black bands; one that forms a black collar and the other a “head band” between the eyes, which are black.
The legs are orange. In general, males are more dramatic in color than females, but they are quite similar. Piping plovers are about 7.5 inches long, smaller than robins, about the same size as a sparrow.
While you’re there, keep your eyes out for other beach-going birds such as Sanderlings, American Oystercatchers, and the diving acrobatics of Least and Common Terns.