Our Precious Piping Plovers - Can They Survive?

When I hear the phrase "endangered species," Piping Plovers is the first species that comes to mind. For many people in the northeast, the Endangered Species Act didn't have much of an impact on our personal lives until Piping Plovers became protected.   The was quite an emotional response to the news that people would not be allowed on the beaches if a Piping Plover nest was present. 

Emotions ran high on both sides of the issue.  There were many who felt they had an inalienable right to go for a walk on a beach whenever they wanted to.  They were outraged that kite-flying, walking dogs, and Fourth of July fireworks were suddenly illegal.  Other people were were so angry that they were ready to take up arms and shoot anyone who interfered with a Piping Plover's nest.

Twenty five years ago, Piping Plovers were on the brink of extinction.  After twenty-five years of federal and state protection, Piping Plovers are still threatened, but their status is much improved.   You might say that today Piping Plovers are on the brink of recovery.  Massachusetts had only 139 breeding pairs of Piping Plovers in 1986.  In 2008 the number of breeding pairs was estimated at 566 in Massachusetts.  The breeding population had more than quadrupled!

At the end of the summer, our precious Piping Plovers will fly south for the winter.  Unfortunately, they spend the winter in the Gulf of Mexico, where billion of gallons of deadly oil await their arrival this year. According to the Boston Globe, "piping plovers are one species whose survival is threatened by the oil spill."   If you've seen the pictures of oil soaked birds in the gulf, you can't help but despair.  For twenty-five years we've helped the Piping Plovers struggle to avoid extinction, but we are helpless in the face of this disaster.  I'm glad I got to see Piping Plovers this spring.  I just hope I didn't see them for the last time.


  1. I love Piping Plovers. The first one I saw was a fledgling at Quivera National Wildlife Refuge here in Kansas.

  2. The last couple of years I have looked forward to seeing these birds arrive. I hope they make it knowing that its wintering grounds spell doom for them.

    What a sad sobering thought.


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