Naturalist Fact: Piping Plover

Piping plover “shuffling”. Photo by Britt.

Piping plovers are small, sand-colored shorebirds that inhabit Little St. Simons Island during the colder months. With their bright orange legs, black bow tie, and clear whistle “Pee-plo” call, they can be distinguished from other shorebirds. Piping plovers can best be found foraging along the incoming tide line; their tendency to run for short distances and then suddenly stop helps to set them apart. Be sure to watch for the piping plover “shuffle”! It’s a dance of sorts that serves to disturb their prey items. (This behavior is pictured above.)

Since piping plovers nest down on the sand, they are especially susceptible to predation. To avoid this, they have adapted excellent camouflage. However, their sand-colored eggs are very difficult to see, so unsuspecting beachcombers often step on them. The destruction of their shoreline habitat has also taken a toll, ultimately leading to their Endangered Species status.

So what can you do to help? It’s very easy! When visiting our beach, make sure to walk in the wet sand on the beach and avoid the dunes where the birds roost. With increasing awareness comes increasing hope for our tiny neighbors!

Fun Fact: For being only 18 cm long, piping plovers make a pretty impressive migration:

4,000 miles in one year!

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