July is here, and while fewer Piping Plover nests are popping up on sandy beaches, a lot of work remains for the Coastal Birds Crew to ensure that young flightless chicks successfully fledge off Maine’s coast. Piping Plover chicks fledge or can fly short distances on the beach within 25 days of hatching. As their flying abilities improve, they will eventually leave Maine beaches to migrate south for the winter when they are about a month old.
These fledge dates are a huge milestone for biologists, indicating that chicks have survived to an age where they can be added or recruited to the breeding population. Accurate recruitment numbers are achieved by closely monitoring brood locations and chick development in their first month after hatching. Predation, heat waves, extreme storms, and human or pet-related disturbances are all factors that determine how many young birds fledge off of each beach during this vulnerable time.
So far this season, the Coastal Bird Crew has worked to fledge 107 piping plover chicks off Maine beaches. Scarborough beaches lead the charge, fledgling 26 chicks at Higgins, Scarborough Beach State Park, and Western/ Ferry beach. Phippsburg (18), Wells (15), Kennebunkport (12), and Ogunquit (10) beaches are close behind. With upcoming fledge dates on the calendar, these numbers are expected to grow into what is shaping up to be a productive 2021 season for Maine’s piping plover population.