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Great Lakes Piping Plovers

Threats to Survival

Great Lakes Piping Plovers were never a common and widespread bird. Their specific nesting and feeding habits limit them to sandy Great Lakes shorelines. Historic records indicate that they nested regularly on all the wide sandy Great Lakes beaches. 

Around 1900 human activity began to negatively impact the survival and nesting success of Piping Plovers. Market hunting and collecting for museums were unregulated and many birds were killed for meat, fancy feathers and specimens. At the same time beach recreation was gaining in popularity, threatening their limited nesting habitat. Though the Lacey Act and later the Migratory Birds Treaty Act stopped the loss of Piping Plovers by hunting and collecting, nesting and wintering habitat loss has continued with the popularity of beach homes and recreation. Many simple actions can be taken to share the shoreline with nesting birds.  

Keep dogs on leash and out of areas closed to pets - Dogs and cats are known predators on Piping Plover chicks and adults. Even if they don't outright kill, they cause the plovers to stop their normal activities. With frequent disruption nests may fail to fledge young.

Share the beach. Limited areas of beach are closed so that Piping Plovers can nest successfully. If you come upon a fenced area please respect the closure. The nesting season is short (Late April - early August) and the beach will be opened when the chicks are able to fly. 

Don't feed wildlife or leave any kind of food scraps on the beach. This attracts gulls, crows and other animals that prey on piping plover eggs and chicks. 

We are less able to control other threats to Piping Plovers. Natural predators such as Merlins can be a serious threat to both adults and chicks. 

There's also the ever present possibility of Piping Plover habitat destruction on both breeding and winter ranges from a variety of events, both natural and human-caused, including storms, oil spills, development and climate-induced sea-level rise. 

Living on the beach might seem like a dream but for the birds that raise their chicks there, life is often precarious.

Have you seen a Piping Plover on your beach?

Report summertime sightings.

Report non-breeding sightings.