Bird Database

Piping Plover

(Charadrius melodus)

State of the Birds
At a Glance







Habitat loss and fragmentation, Predation, Climate change, Human disturbance

Conservation Actions

Protect coastal habitats, Minimize disturbanceto shorebrids

Piping Plover

(Charadrius melodus)

Piping Plovers have probably been the subject of more contentious public debates than any other bird species in New England. Since they nest almost exclusively on sandy beaches from May through August, their needs are in direct conflict with peak summer recreational interests. Human beach users may scare birds off their nests, thus exposing them to predators, or even unwittingly step on the camouflaged eggs near the edges of the dunes. Free running dogs, off road vehicles, and even fireworks have also all been implicated in the plight of this specialized shorebird.

In response, wildlife officials have a variety of strategies to minimize human impacts. The most extreme of these are total beach closures (the source of much heated discussion!), but in areas where this is not feasible biologists use a combination of predator exclosures and symbolic fencing. Exclosures are essentially cages around nests that allow the plovers to pass through, while fences mark off areas where birds can rest and forage without being disturbed by beachgoers. All these measures can be quite effective, and Piping Plover populations across New England have been slowly increasing – and people are still going to beaches.

All of New Hampshire’s Piping Plovers are in Hampton and Seabrook, and if you brave the crowds on these beaches in June and July keep an eye out for these small but charismatic shorebirds. The adults blend easily into the sand, and are most easily seen when they move, or forage along the waterline. A pair typically lays four eggs, which hatch after four weeks. Young are often characterized as tiny “pompoms with legs,” and can run around and feed themselves shortly after hatching.

As the chicks grow, they get better and better at moving around their beach, and thus avoiding the many hazards in their habitat. They can fly after 4-5 weeks, during which time they still associate closely with one or both parents. Some even remain with an adult, most often the male, right up until they depart on southward migration in late August. We don’t know exactly where New Hampshire’s plovers go, but birds from elsewhere in New England have been recorded in Florida and the Bahamas.

Seasonal Abundance

Relative abundance based on eBird data. Numbers indicate likelihood of finding this species in suitable habitat at a given time of year, not actual numbers encountered.

Piping Plover
Range Map

Information for the species profiles on this website was compiled from a combination of the sources listed below.

  • The Birds of New Hampshire. By Allan R. Keith and Robert B. Fox. 2013. Memoirs of the Nuttall Ornithological club No. 19.

  • Atlas of the Breeding Birds of New Hampshire. Carol R. Foss, ed. 1994. Arcadia Publishing Company and Audubon Society of New Hampshire

  • Birds of the World. Various authors and dates. Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology.

  • Data from the Breeding Bird Survey

  • Data from the Christmas Bird Count