By Terri Estes

Let’s talk about those pesky little migrants who are taking up prime real estate on the shores of our communities and are protected by the federal government. These peeping little creatures run back and forth along the surf without a care in the world. Yes, I am talking about the piping plovers.

The piping plover is a migratory bird that breeds in the northern regions of North America, primarily the Atlantic coast. It nests on sandy beaches and dunes. As winter approaches, they migrate south to warmer coastal areas. The piping plover is listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act in the United States. The populations have been declining due to loss of habitat, disturbance of human activities and predation. Often, beachgoers and off-leash dogs disrupt their nesting behavior and cause them to abandon their nests.

Conservation efforts to restore piping plover populations have been going on in our area since the 1980s. Yes, that’s right, parts of our beaches have been fenced off in different areas for over 40 years. The good news is that the number of nesting pairs has increased indicating successful breeding and reproduction. This is an encouraging sign of population growth.

Making our way around the nesting grounds to get to the beach is tiresome. Setting up our beach chairs outside of the hallowed nesting grounds is irritating. But these little birds play a significant role in the environment and contribute to the ecological balance of our coastal ecosystems. They feed on small invertebrates, such as marine worms and forage in the shallow water, targeting small organisms. They eat beetles, flies and mosquitos too. So, protecting these birds and their habitats has broad environmental benefits and supports the overall health and harmony of our coastal environment here in the Rockaways. So, let’s give the little birds another 40 years. I know I could use a few less mosquito bites.

Fun Animal Fact:

Opossums are marsupials (pouched mammals), not rodents. In fact, opossums are the only native marsupial in all of North America.

Photo by Colin Ackers

Rockaway Stuff

Related post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *