News & Notes

Browsing posts tagged with: piping plovers

Death of Piping Plover Serves as Reminder to Keep Dogs on Leash

Thursday, August 1st, 2013
Posted on:
Photo: Doug Hitchcox 2007

Photo: Doug Hitchcox 2007

By: Katie Burns and Mary Badger (Piping Plover project interns)

On Monday, July 15, our biologists received concerning news. The Scarborough Marsh Audubon Center called the Piping Plover/Least Tern Project office to report that a dead piping plover fledgling (learning to fly) had been delivered to the Center. The citizen who brought in the plover witnessed the bird being attacked by an off-leash dog.

The death of this plover fledgling was particularly devastating as it had been the only chick to hatch from its brood. The parents had chosen a rather challenging spot to nest on Pine Point Beach in Scarborough, where dogs and foot-traffic cause a constant disturbance to the adults’ incubation of their eggs.

Despite these odds, one chick was able to hatch. The little family then hiked a mile down the beach to a new site, perhaps to avoid the amount of dog and human activity, before finally settling south of the Pine Point public access. After such difficult beginnings, we were delighted to see the chick grow fat and fluffy as it foraged near Snowberry Park. The chick and adult survived the barrage of fireworks over the Independence Day holiday, something that can scare adults to the point of abandoning chicks. On July 13, we witnessed the young bird stretch his wings and make his first attempts to fly. This is always a hopeful sign, marking the beginning of its adult life. After watching this chick’s trials and triumphs, the news that we received of its death is especially heartbreaking.

Plover chicks are unable to fly for about one month after they hatch. Their main defense mechanism is to stand still and rely on their camouflage. The Pine Point chick had fledged, but was not yet an experienced flyer, which still made it a target for predators. While most dog owners would not consider their dogs to be predators, they are the most prevalent threat to plovers on Pine Point Beach. We are lucky to have only a small population of natural predators living in this particular area.

We work hard to ask dog owners to please leash their pets in areas where piping plovers are nesting and foraging. The nesting areas are marked with signs and symbolic fencing in the form of stake and twine. Being dog lovers ourselves, we understand that dogs need their exercise, but we also know that it is in a dog’s nature to want to chase anything that moves. It is the dog owner’s responsibility to leash their pet in areas where endangered piping plovers make their nests.

The incident on July 15 demonstrates that dogs are a very real threat to wildlife. We remind all beach-goers that piping plovers are an endangered species in Maine and protected by Endangered Species Act. The death of a bird can warrant a federal and state investigation. When situations such as this occur, we rely on witnesses to gather all available information so that we can prevent other violations in the future.

Here are some tips on how to be a good witness:

  • Description of People: Get a description of the person, such as height, hair color, gender and clothing
  • Date and Time: Record the date and time of day of the incident
  • Location and Distances: Identify the location of the incident and record landmarks
  • Description of Vehicles: Describe the vehicles involved, especially license plate numbers
  • Describe Event: Take notes on the details of the event, making sure to describe all witnessed events leading up to the occurrence
  • Call us: Piping Plover/Least Tern Project at 207-233-6811.

With factors such as habitat loss, over-population of predators and the harshness of New England weather, piping plovers are literally fighting for their lives. The best way for beach goers to help this species is to give the birds their space. We appreciate all the cooperation and support that we have received from beach communities.


Maine Audubon and MDIFW seeking witness in Piping Plover case

Tuesday, July 16th, 2013
Posted on:

Media Releasechick


July 16, 2013

Contact: Michelle Smith, Maine Audubon (207) 838-0511

Doug Rafferty, Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (207) 287-5248

Scarborough – Maine Audubon, Maine Game Wardens and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service are seeking a witness in the death of protected Piping Plover chick on Pine Point Beach in Scarborough.

At approximately 10 am on Monday, July 15, a woman spotted a dog on the beach with its owner. As the dog approached a plover chick, she warned the owner to call the dog back, but the owner allegedly paid no attention and the dog then proceeded to kill one of the chicks.

The woman later brought the chick to Maine Audubon which took custody of it and notified authorities. She did not leave her name or contact information. Maine Game Wardens and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service would like to speak with the woman to gather additional information about the bird’s death.

Piping plovers are listed as an endangered species in Maine and are threatened under federal law. The Piping Plover Recovery Project, a collaboration between the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Maine Audubon, the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands, and municipalities, works to educate the public about plover nesting areas to ensure their protection and increase their population.

Last year, there were only 42 nesting pairs in the state, from Ogunquit to Georgetown. Plovers nest in front of sand dunes on the upper beach and are vulnerable to natural predators, roaming pets, storms and human disturbance. MDIFW and Maine Audubon encourages beachgoers and landowners to reduce human-caused mortality of plovers by leaving your pets at home when you go to the beach, staying away from roped off plover areas and to watch where you are walking on the beach, to avoid stepping on nests.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Sgt. Tim Spahr at (207) 557-0895.




Piping Plover Nesting Update

Thursday, June 13th, 2013
Posted on:

With nice weather due to return for the weekend here in Maine, we would like to take a moment for a short update on our Piping Plover Monitoring Program.


After the storms in late April, a group of plover/endangered species biologists from United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) and Maine Audubon met to tour some of Maine’s plover beaches. Maine Audubon staff biologist, Laura Minich Zitske, was on hand to share an update on the many issues plovers face. The group surveyed beach and dune damage from the winter and spring storms and examined proposed and existing seawalls to better understand how can balance the needs of people and birds.

On a southern Maine plover nesting beach ... surveying conditions.

Everyone is checking out the male plover know as “Bahama Papa” (pictured below) Joining Laura was Kate O’Brien- Refuge Biologist at Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge (USFWS), Kaiti Titherington- Plover and Tern Technician at RCNWR (USFWS), Mark McCullough- Endangered Species Specialist, Maine Field Office (USFWS), Laury Zicari- Field Supervisor, Maine Field Office (USFWS), Anne Hecht- Endangered Species Biologist (USFWS), Lindsay Tudor- Shorebird Biologist (MDIFW), Charlie Todd (Endangered & Threatened Species Coordinator (MDIFW)

Seawalls may help protect homes from storm damage, but they may ultimately destroy the very beach on which people built homes to enjoy. When waves hit the sea walls, it encourages increased speed of the water, picking up sand in the wave actions. Thus, we see much greater erosion around the walled sections of beach; the sea walls also prevents the natural rebuilding of beaches. This not only hurts people who enjoy the beach, but the nesting habitat for the endangered Piping Plover,  which have only 43 nesting pairs in Maine.

Nesting Conditions and Damage to Habitat Caused by Storms and Tides

When we get storms rolling in with full moon tides the landscape on our beaches can change fast. The storm damage to dunes has been so extensive on one particular beach that Laura  noted, “I barely know how to orient myself on this beach because there is so much dune washed away.” In the photo below, she demonstrates the approximate height of what was the leading edge of the dune before the most recent erosion after the storm/tide combination of late April.

Laura Minich Zitske, staff biologist and piping plover project manager shows the previous approximate height of the dune before the storm.

Seasonal biologist Caroline Cappello took the photo below of an exclosure which originally cordoned off a full section of dune before the storm; after the storm, more than three feet of dune was lost.


Pictured below is the nest which used to be under the above exclosure. Our staff were able to safely remove the exclosure and the parents returned to tend the brood.

Nesting piping plover.

Nice Weekend Coming – Please Be Alert!

If you like to enjoy walks on a beach and see the sign in the photo below, please keep your pets on a leash and maintain a good distance from the chicks who start life little larger than a typical cotton ball.

A typical nest exclosure. This helps keep predators out and allows the plovers to come and go.

A typical nest exclosure. This helps keep predators out and allows the plovers to come and go.


Not only are the chicks small, but they also blend into the sands of the beach. This was taken from more than one hundred feet away with a 400mm lens.

Pictured below: seasonal biologist, Traczie Bellinger, and intern, Mary Badger, spotting the chicks pictured above, which were then only a few days old.
Seasonal biologist and spotting the then few days old chicks.

Some playfulness between male and female.

Some playfulness between male and female.

A plover on the outside of an exclosure.

A Plover on the outside of an xnclosure which demonstrates how the Plover can easily fit through the fencing while a cat or other predator could not.

Learn about “Bahama Papa” – named for his location when first banded

“Bahama Papa” was first banded in the Bahamas in 2010 and has been seen on the same stretch of beach in Maine every summer since. Each winter he has been observed on the same stretch of beach on Grand Bahama where he was originally banded. In his Maine summers, he has already fledged 8 chicks!

We saw Bahama Papa on April 29. As of today, we know he has a mate and they have been scraping nest spots there is no definitive word as to whether or not Bahama Papa will be a father for another year.

This is "Bahama Papa" who has been seen in southern Maine a few years now and was first banded in the Bahamas.

This is “Bahama Papa” who has been seen in southern Maine a few years now and was first banded in the Bahamas in 2010 and has fledged eight chicks!



Piping Plovers Return Early to Southern Maine

Thursday, April 11th, 2013
Posted on:


Maine Audubon asks beach goers and beachfront landowners to be aware of nesting plovers

Maine Audubon reported today that several piping plover nesting pairs have returned to southern Maine beaches. All beachgoers and beachfront landowners along the coast should be aware of nesting plovers, but particular caution is required at beaches where pairs are currently active, including Fortunes Rock Beach (Biddeford), Goose Rocks Beach (Kennebunkport), Ogunquit Beach, Wells Beach and beaches in Kennebunk.

Piping plovers are listed as an endangered species in Maine and are threatened under federal law. Plovers nest in front of sand dunes on the upper beach and are vulnerable to natural predators, roaming pets, storms and human disturbance. Maine Audubon encourages beachgoers and landowners to reduce human-caused mortality of plovers by leaving y our pets at home when you go to the beach, staying away from roped off plover areas and to watch where you are walking on the beach, to avoid stepping on nests.

If you find a plover nest, or would like to volunteer for the Piping Plover Project, please contact Laura Minich Zitske at or (207) 781-2330 x226.

RestrictedArea-PIPL-signLearn more about Maine Audubon’s Piping Plover Project:
Traczie Bellinger, Maine Audubon seasonal biologist, will show a short video and slide show about the Piping Plover Project at several locations throughout southern Maine this spring:
  • April 16, time TBD, York Public Library
  • April 25, 6:30pm, Scarborough Public Library
  • May 9, 6pm, Biddeford Library

Piping Plover Outreach

Monday, August 20th, 2012
Posted on:

In addition to management and other activities in the field, outreach is a critical component of the Piping Plover and Least Tern Recovery Project. Our team regularly organizes outreach sessions to talk with beachgoers, beach residents/landowners, local beach associations, lifeguards, police, school kids and others. The goal of our outreach program is to educate people about Piping Plovers on their local beaches–we tell them about the biology of the birds, the challenges they face, and what we can all do to help protect them.

In July and August, our team talked with two groups of elementary and preschool children at the Goose Rocks Beach Association summer camp. About 70 curious kids attended and showed a lot of enthusiasm for learning about these birds. Their questions were very astute, like “why do plovers pretend to have a broken wing when approached by people?”  During the most recent session, kids enjoyed creating their own Piping Plover chicks made out of cotton balls and dry spaghetti (see photos). They also played a game to learn more about where plovers live, what they eat, and what likes to eat them. At the end of the sessions we handed out cool Piping Plover temporary tattoos. The first session was such a hit, that they requested another session the following month!

In addition to the above efforts, our team also regularly sets up a table near beaches where plovers nest to talk more informally with beachgoers about the birds.

So far this summer the Maine Audubon team has talked to over 3,700 people about Maine’s Piping Plovers. We are looking forward to continuing outreach activities next season and we encourage private associations and other groups whose activities are related to conservation or environmental education to contact us to organize educational talks and activities.

Written by Erik Ndayishimiye


Video: Help Protect Maine’s Piping Plovers

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012
Posted on:
chick head onJimFenton

Watch. Learn. Help.

A very informative video by Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife introducing the piping plover in Maine, it’s habitat, the challenges this species faces, what we are doing and what you can do to help this bird species survive.

Read more about our efforts at the links below.


Tough Summer for Piping Plovers — a reminder to give them space!

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012
Posted on:

Photo: Jim Fenton

It’s been a tough summer for Piping Plovers and plover supporters this summer. However- the season isn’t over yet!

The pairs that lost eggs in June’s big storm and neste again are hatching. Small chicks are a delight to watch; enjoy the from a distance and please keep your pets inside at this critcal time!


Kennebunkport Residents Vote to Ban Consumer Fireworks

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012
Posted on:

Maine Audubon is pleased to report that Kennebunkport residents have voted overwhelmingly (550 to 254, more than a 2-to-1 margin) to enact a ban on the sale and use of consumer fireworks in the town. This is good news for endangered piping plovers, whose nests on southern Maine beaches took a major hit a couple of weeks ago during a recent heavy rain storm, which also coincided with astronomical high tides. In York County, where a majority of Maine’s 43 known pairs of piping plovers make their nests, Kennebunkport joins neighboring Old Orchard Beach and Biddeford in enacting local fireworks bans.

Certificate of Election – Town of Kennebunkport June 12, 2012


Heavy rain, and a heavy burden on piping plovers

Friday, June 8th, 2012
Posted on:

Typical "exclosure" for protecting a piping plover nesting area


Storm damage to a piping plover protected nesting area


Storm damage to a piping plover protected nesting area

Typical "exclosure" for protecting a piping plover nesting areaStorm damage to a piping plover protected nesting areaStorm damage to a piping plover protected nesting area

This past weekend was a difficult one for nesting piping plovers in southern and mid-coast Maine. The high tides and rain storms washed out many of the nests, burying eggs under the sand.

Following an early Spring, this year’s nesting season started earlier than usual given the birds a great head start. Recent weather events came at a time when some of the nests had already hatched, but many nests were due to hatch in the next couple of days. So far we are not aware of any casualties among the adult plovers, however we believe that at least 15 chicks were lost with the inclement weather. Only 5 nests remained intact in the State after the weekend weather, while 22 nests were lost from Ogunquit to Georgetown.

Piping Plovers have been known to renest after the 1st nesting attempt has failed and since it is still early in the season, we are hopeful that at least some of the birds will renest, but even so, they face additional challenges since those who renest will be incubating and tending chicks in the middle of the summer when beaches are more crowded.

Right now we are working hard to remove fallen exclosures and assess damage; we will keep you posted on our progress. We also encourage anyone who has any information about possible dead plover chicks or new nesting activity to contact us.

This is a good reminder of how fragile and vulnerable Piping Plovers are. We thank the beachgoers who respect our requests to stay away from nesting areas and keep their dogs on leash. We welcome and appreciate any questions you may have for us. After this recent weather setback, we really need everyone’s cooperation and assistance in order to help these birds overcome this hurdle and be successful this season. With just about 40 pairs now, more than ever, every egg counts!

Written by Erik Ndayishimiye


Maine Audubon Urges Kennebunkport to Approve Consumer Fireworks Ban

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012
Posted on:

“Yes” vote on Question 6 on June 12 ballot would protect endangered piping plovers in critical habitat

Maine Audubon is urging Kennebunkport residents to vote “yes” on Question 6 on next Tuesday’s municipal ballot in an effort to protect piping plovers, a migratory bird species of which there are only 43 known nesting pairs in the state.

Of the few sandy beaches along the Maine coast, the ones in York County and in particular around Kennebunkport are critical nesting locations for piping plovers. A “yes” vote would ban the sale and use of consumer fireworks by individuals in the town. (more…)