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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Meet our new naturalist!

Laura Early grew up in the upstate of South Carolina, exploring and discovering all that was around her. Her family frequently visited the Carolinas’ beautiful coastline, which inevitably lead to her falling in love with the ocean. With a very curious mind, science has always been “way cool!” to her.

While completing her B.S. in Biology at Clemson University, she fed her love of travel by studying in the Rocky Mountains, the Caribbean island of Dominica, and India. She also spent a summer working with the sea turtle program at Cumberland Island National Seashore. Experiencing a female loggerhead sea turtle lay a nest of over 100 eggs was one of those moments where you realize that some pretty amazing things are happening in the ocean. She realized that in order to conserve such wonderful and important things as natural spaces, people need to feel that same awe and inspiration that she felt while watching that sea turtle.

Laura is always looking for an adventure, and since graduating has worked with University of Florida’s Wildlife Ecology team, as an outdoor education instructor for Clemson’s Youth Learning Institute, and most recently with the nonprofit Sanibel Sea School. At Sanibel Sea School, she led children in exploring and learning about all that was around them by snorkeling, seining, canoeing, bird-watching, and beachcombing. She also worked to spread Sanibel Sea School’s reach to a wider audience through social media outlets.

Here at Little St. Simons Island, she is excited to embark on many more adventures of discovery, and share that excitement with everyone she can!

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