Brendan Clifford: (603) 271-0463
Piping Plover Monitor: (603) 419-9728
August 16, 2018
CONCORD, N.H. — It was a record summer for the state-endangered and federally threatened piping plovers on Hampton and Seabrook beaches. This summer, three pairs nested on Hampton Beach with five chicks fledged (25+ days old), while on Seabrook Beach six pairs of plovers fledged twelve chicks. The nine total pairs and seventeen fledged chicks are both records not surpassed since the project began in 1997.
As soon as piping plovers return to the beaches in April, N.H. Fish and Game biologists fence off the nesting areas with yellow rope and signs alerting people to stay clear. When the chicks are 25-30 days old, capable of flying and eluding danger, the fence comes down, opening that section of beach for recreational use.
Piping plover chicks are able to walk and feed on their own soon after hatching. The newborn chicks are small – about the size of a cotton ball – and nearly the color of sand, making them vulnerable to predation by gulls, crows, foxes, cats, and dogs, or being stepped on by humans. Raising awareness among beachgoers on how they can help protect the plovers is key to their nesting success.
The recovery this summer was partially attributable to the lack of nest abandonment. “Piping plovers sometimes lose their first nests to high tides, inclement weather or predation, but this year all nine pairs hatched their first nest” said Fish and Game Biologist Brendan Clifford.
The nesting and hatching was a little later than normal with the first hatching not observed until mid-June. But despite the later nesting and busier beaches, chicks were successfully fledged from eight of the nine nests, Clifford Said.
Beachgoers can help protect plovers by leashing dogs, filling in holes in the sand where small chicks may get trapped, picking up trash and food on the beach that attracts gulls and crows, flying kites at least 200 yards away from plovers, and respecting signs and fencing near nesting birds.
Conservation efforts by many partners, and the cooperation of beachgoers, have helped the piping plover population reach close to 2,000 pairs along the Atlantic Coast since the bird was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1986.
To learn more about New Hampshire’s Piping Plover Project visit: www.wildnh.com/nongame/project-plover.html.