Story and Photos
By Theresa M Racine
On Saturday, July 8, NYC Parks held a Shorebird festival right on the boardwalk on Beach 44th Street, to spread awareness about the protected species in the area.
Saturday’s festival included resources from NYC Parks and the NYC Plover Project, arts and crafts and even a visit from NYC Parks’ plover mascot for photo ops. But it was also full of information about Rockaway’s protected species of shorebirds including piping plovers, American oystercatchers, common terns, and black skimmers. All of these birds are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 and the Endangered Species Act.
One of the most well-known around here are the piping plovers. According to NYC Parks, “Plovers, like most New Yorkers, prefer to spend their summer months by the shore. It is not all fun and games for them though. Due to human-related habitat loss, the piping plovers are here searching for a safe place to start a family of their own as they attempt to save their species from extinction.”
Plovers provide an economic benefit to humans. According to the BioKids program at the University of Michigan, “The Piping Plover also controls the insect and small crustacean populations on beaches. The major economic benefits stem from this beach cleaning the Piping Plover provides. This in turn allows for humans to frequent coastal areas more frequently with less incident for contact with pests (tourism).” They are also an important part of the overall ecosystem of the area.
Although tiny, piping plovers and other shorebirds are part of a larger picture where everything relies on everything else. Disturbing the balance of an ecosystem can be detrimental for all living things if a part of it is destroyed. Humans can be a part of this destruction, especially when it comes to pollution and overusing natural resources. For instance, wanting to share the shore with endangered birds can cause stress to the birds and occasionally their nests or eggs can be destroyed by people or pets walking on them.
According to NYC Parks, “the main cause of death for piping plovers are predation, habitat damage and destruction, and human disturbance. Some of the piping plovers that breed in NYC spend their winters in South Carolina. Before the passing of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act in 1918, plovers were hunted for their meat and feathers.”
Interrupting the ecosystem can lead to greater problems that can cause flooding, sea level rise, temperature rise and disruption to the food chain when apex predators go extinct.
Doris Mclaughlin, a longtime resident of the Rockaways said, “God created the plovers of our ecosystem. Let us all work together to keep them in their habitable environment.” Thank you to the organizations that do their part to raise awareness about these birds and help keep them safe. They are the voice of these birds.
To understand more about the piper plover and exactly what they need, check out the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service website at: https://www.fws.gov/media/piping-plover-habitat