This past week I had the joy of filming a Piping Plover pair hatch two teeny adorable chicks. It’s extraordinary how these tiny tots are capable of propelling themselves around the beach within hours after pipping their way out of the eggshell. To be very clear, the chicks did not hatch at GHB; our chicks are about two weeks away from hatching.
Piping Plovers are precocial birds, which means that the chicks hatch with a coat of downy fluff, are not blind, and quickly learn to find food without the help of Mom and Dad. However, precocial birds cannot escape danger until they learn to fly and generally cannot regulate their body temperature. The chicks need Mom and Dad for protection and for warmth (to thermoregulate their little bodies).And with Mom. Note the chick is no taller than the emerging shots of Sea Rocket!
The opposite of precocial is altricial. Most species of songbirds are altricial. Songbirds hatch blind, naked, helpless, and must be fed by the parents. Although Piping Plovers are active within hours after hatching, they are often sleepy and very easily tire the first few days.
The first day or so after hatching, Piping Plover chicks go through the motions of foraging, giving chase to bugs and pecking at the sand, but often the insects escape or the chicks don’t eat the capture. By the third day they have mastered the skills needed to forage successfully.
I think we’ll call these two Thompson and Thomson, after the delightful twin detectives from Tintin. I certainly will never be able to tell one from the other!
The twins were doing beautifully when last checked, despite high winds, high tides, cold temperatures, and storm surges. The nest originally held four eggs but very unfortunately, two eggs disappeared. The most likely culprit is a Crow, with which this beach is rife.
Piping Plover nests and chicks are subject to predation by crows, seagulls, small mammals, Red Fox, and crabs. Adult Piping Plovers are predated by owls and hawks. The Plover’s greatest defense is its ability to blend with its surroundings but this perfect sand-hued camouflage works to their disadvantage on busy urban beaches such as Good Harbor Beach.
Plovers everywhere caught a break this Memorial Day weekend. The foul weather means fewer people on the beach, which equals fewer disturbances to nesting adults and to chicks foraging. Soon enough there will be marshmallow-sized Plover chicks zooming around Good Harbor Beach.
How we often find Good Harbor Beach the morning after a warm sunny day and before the awesome DPW crew arrives to clean the beach.
What can you do to help Piping Plovers? Here are a few simple guidelines and steps we can all take to help protect the Plovers.
1) Don’t leave behind or bury trash or food on the beach. Garbage attracts predators including crows, seagulls, foxes, coyotes, skunks, raccoons, and rats. All these creatures EAT plover eggs and chicks. Bring an extra trash bag if so inclined and help clean up the litter left by others.
2) Please do not linger near the Piping Plover chicks and nests. Activity around the Plovers attracts gulls and crows.
3) Respect the fenced off areas that are created to protect the Plovers. And recognize, too, that soon after hatching, the chicks will be going in and out of the protected areas to find food. The PiPl parents will warn you are too close to a hatchling by piping loudly. If you find yourself in that situation, carefully retreat and walk around the foraging family.
4) Never bring a dog, leashed or unleashed, to a beach where there are shorebirds nesting. Report dogs on the beach to the ACO and police at
5) Ball playing, kite flying, and drone flying are not permitted near nesting Piping Plovers. These activities are against city, state, and federal laws because stray balls have the potential to injure both nesting adults and chicks. To a Piping Plover’s way of thinking, kites and drones are avian predators. They will become super stressed and often fly after and try to attack a kite or drone, leaving the nest or chicks unattended and vulnerable to predation.
6) Help inform fellow beach goers about the chicks. We see so many folks approaching the symbolically roped off area to read the signs. Most people are interested in learning more about the Plovers and want to catch a glimpse. Point out the Plovers (from a safe distance away) and share what you know.
If you would like to become a Piping Plover ambassador, please leave a comment or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org