The Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus) is a sparrow-sized bird named for its distinct and highly varied piping vocalizations. The diminutive shorebirds are well-camouflaged, mirroring coastal hues of the surrounding shoreline, of weathered driftwood and sandy beaches. Piping Plovers sport a black or brown crescent moon-shaped headband and wider black or brown collar band. Their black-tipped orange bills are darker in winter, more brilliant in summer, and slender yellow-orange legs and teeny-taloned toes propel them around the beach with lightning speed.
Piping Plover male, left, female right
The difference between a male and female Piping Plover is usually easy to spot. The female’s headband is typically paler and her shoulder collar less pronounced however, males with the lightest markings look similar to females with the darkest markings.
Piping Plovers forage along the shoreline, just as do Sandpipers, and the two are often confused. They eat a wide variety of invertebrates including insects, marine worms, tiny mollusks and crustaceans.
Chick eating a marine worm
Piping Plovers nest on beaches, the same beaches that are popular with people. Their nests, eggs, and chicks are so well-camouflaged that it is easy for people and pets to step on them before they are even aware of their presence.
Well-camouflaged chicks in the sand
Shoreline development, off road vehicles, free roaming cats and dogs, crows, and seagulls have contributed to the decline of the Piping Plover. Currently, there are only about 8,000 individuals. Critical Piping Plover breeding habitats are protected to help the birds successfully nest and rear chicks to fledge.
The Piping Plover is federally listed as Endangered in the Great Lakes region and as Threatened in the Atlantic Coast region and Great Plains; and is also listed as Endangered in Canada. Threatened species of wildlife share the exact same protections as Endangered species.
In 2016, a pair of Piping Plovers arrived at Good Harbor Beach, quite possibly, the first nesting pair in nearly a century. A loosely formed bunch of volunteers began watching over the Plovers and subsequently formed the Piping Plover Ambassador group. We provide full coverage at Good Harbor Beach, monitoring the Plovers and sharing information with beachgoers about our most vulnerable summer beach residents.
Piping Plover 36-day-old fledgling
Piping Plover chicks are considered fully fledged at about 5 weeks, or 35-36 days. The fledglings will continue to forage and sleep at Cape Ann beaches for approximately one to two weeks more, building their fat reserves for the southward migration. It is thought that Cape Ann Piping Plovers first travel to the barrier beaches of the North Carolina coastline before then heading to barrier beaches of Caribbean islands.
Dad snuggles – Piping Plover fathers are equal partners in rearing chicks
You, too, can be excellent Piping Plover stewards. If you see Piping Plovers on the beach, please give them lots and lots of space. They wander far outside of denoted restricted areas, from the dunes to the shoreline. When Plovers are at the shoreline and in the tide pools, they are usually foraging. Undisturbed feeding allows the birds to grow strong and to migrate successfully. Please do not follow the birds while they are feeding in hopes to get a close up with your cell phone.
Dogs are not permitted at Good Harbor Beach at any time of day or night from March 1st through September 30th. Kites, drones, and para gliders are not permitted within 650 feet of Piping Plovers. Crows and seagulls eat Piping Plover eggs and chicks. Please pick up trash and do not bury it in the sand.
Thank you for helping to protect Cape Ann’s Piping Plovers!
The Piping Plovers of Moonlight Bay is a narrated documentary that tells the story of Pippi and Big Papi Plover and their blended family of chicks. Told through the adventures of an extraordinary pair of birds, experience the life story of the Piping Plover, from courtship to nesting to fledging to migration. Massachusetts is at the forefront of Piping Plover recovery and the film is fittingly set against the stage of the north of Boston coastline. Learn how we can all become stewards of these vulnerable, yet courageous, tiny threatened nesting shorebirds.
I began documenting the Good Harbor Beach Piping Plovers in May of 2016. What began as a quick trip to the beach to capture a few moments of footage of the recently arrived Plovers, for an entirely different project about Cape Ann wildlife, became, over time, the greatly expanded project that it is today. From that very first visit, it was apparent the birds were struggling under the pressures of human and dog disturbance.
As are most regions along the length of the Eastern Seaboard, the area north of Boston lies within a largely unrestricted north-south corridor for migratory species of birds and butterflies. Birds, butterflies, and other insects travel along the Atlantic Flyway without being impeded by large mountain ranges to cross. There is great beauty to be found in this great movement of life
Birds help us better understand the world around us. The majority of bird species nests far away from human eyes, in the Arctic, or high up in a leafy tree, where we will never see their beautiful story. We are sublimely fortunate for the opportunity to witness the life story of the Piping Plover as it unfolds along the coast of Massachusetts.
The film footage, photos, and journals have provided the basis for the forthcoming film and children’s book about Atlantic Coast Piping Plovers. While the film is in production, I have created a lecture program and am offering that freely to our community. Please see below for a synopsis of the program and links to hundreds of stories about the threatened Piping Plover.
Piping Plover Short Films and ShortShorts
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Vote for Chicks on the Half Shell! Nesting shorebirds need safe habitat. Please share and vote to continue protections afforded under the Endangered Species Act.
What’s happening in the clip below? Within hours after hatching, tiny marshmallow-sized Piping Plover chicks leave the nest and begin foraging on their own. They still need Mom and Dad for thermo-snuggling and for protection. In this clip you can hear Dad Plover piping loudly, commanding the chick to take cover, and the day-old chick’s barely audible peeps in response.
If you would like to read more about Piping Plovers, the following is a (partial) list of several hundred articles and posts from April 2016 to the present. I haven’t yet organized the posts from May 2019 through February 2020 – a task in progress!
February 2020 –
WELCOMING BACK GLOUCESTER’S PIPING PLOVERS AND WHY BANDING OUR GOOD HARBOR BEACH NESTING PAIR IS NOT A GOOD IDEA
WHY THE SAND IS PURPLE AND PINK ON CRANE BEACH, PLUM ISLAND, AND OTHER NORTH SHORE BEACHES
BEAUTIFUL, BEAUTIFUL DUXBURY!
#GLOUCESTERPLOVER ! JOYFUL NEWS TO SHARE – OUR GOOD HARBOR BEACH PIPING PLOVERS HAVE RETURNED
WE HAVE A PIPING PLOVER NEST SCRAPE!
CAPE ANN EARLY SPRING WILDLIFE UPDATE
PIPING PLOVERS ARE HERE AND THEY NEED OUR HELP!
THANK YOU GOVERNOR BAKER AND THE MASSACHUSETTS DEPARTMENT OF CONSERVATION FOR PROTECTING PIPING PLOVERS AT DCR BEACHES!
THANK YOU MAYOR SEFATIA AND THE CITY OF GLOUCESTER FOR FENCING OFF AN AREA FOR THE PIPING PLOVERS AT GOOD HARBOR BEACH!
EARTH DAY 1970 – 2020: FREE DOG POOP
EARTH DAY 1970 – 2020: HOW ARE WE DOING FIFTY YEARS LATER?
RACHEL CARSON’S “SILENT SPRING”
EARTH DAY 1970 – 2020: Why do we see so many more Eagles today than fifty years ago? WITH BEAUTIFUL PHOTO BY DOUG BURGESS!
EARTH DAY 1970 – 2020: “MONARCH BUTTERFLIES MATING” SHORT FILM AND WHY WE PLANT NATIVE WILDFLOWER HABITAT GARDENS!
EARTH DAY 1970 -2020: “GOOD MORNING CHICKS!” PIPING PLOVER SHORT FILM
The Magical Month of May for Migrations in Massachusetts
GOOD NEWS CAPE ANN – THINKING ABUT CHANGING THE NAME “TO BEAUTY BY THE SEA”- EPISODE 6
CALL TO ACTION: GLOUCESTER PLOVERS NEED OUR HELP
NEW YOUTUBE SHOW – BEAUTY BY THE SEA EPISODE #7
WHY ARE THERE STILL NO ENDANGERED/THREATENED SPECIES SIGNS AT GOOD HARBOR BEACH
WE HAVE THE ENDANGERED/THREATENED SPECIES SIGNS FOR THE PIPLS!!!
BEAUTIFUL MEMORIAL FRIDAY AT GOOD HARBOR BEACH!
AND WE HAVE TWO PIPING PLOVER EGGS
BEAUTY BY THE SEA WITH PIPING PLOVERS MATING! AND WE HAVE TWO PIPING PLOVER EGGS!!! EPISODE 8
PIPING PLOVERS ARE ON TONIGHTS’ CITY COUNCIL MEETING AT 6 PM AND WHY EXCLOSURES (the wire cages) ARE IMPERATIVE TO THE SURVIVAL OF THE GOOD HARBOR BEACH PIPLS
WE NOW HAVE THREE EGGS AT #3! THANK YOU ESSEX GREENBELT’S DAVE RIMMER AND MIKE GALLI AND GLOUCESTER’S JOE LUCIDO FOR INSTALLING THE WIRE EXCLOSURE THIS MORNING!
HILARY FRYE, EXTRAORDINARY DUCKLING RESCUER!
BEAUTIFUL SILVERY VIOLET FOGGY SUNRISE AT GOOD HARBOR BEACH
UPDATE ON OUR GOOD HARBOR BEACH NESTING PAIR OF PIPING PLOVERS
FRIENDS CHECK OUT THIS SUPER INTERESTING AND FAMILY ORIENTED ZOOM WEBINAR I AM PARTICIPATING IN, ALONG WITH WITH JOHN NELSON AND MARTIN RAY
SHOUT OUT TO PIPING PLOVER HELPERS DJ AND JOHN BURLINGHAM!
PIPING PLOVER CHRONICLES – WE LOST A NEST – AND SOME GOOD NEWS
BEAUTIFUL, BEAUTIFUL PIPING PLOVER FIRST HATCH DAY
CALL OUT FOR PIPING PLOVER VOLUNTEER AMBASSADORS
BEAUTIFUL PIPING PLOVER SECOND HATCH DAY- MORNING
BEAUTIFUL PIPING PLOVER SECOND HATCH DAY- AFTERNOON
SUPER EXCITING NEWS – THERE ARE NOW TWO PAIRS OF PIPING PLOVERS NESTING AT GOOD HARBOR BEACH!
SINGING THE PRAISES OF CAPE ANN’S WINGED AERIALISTS- Please join Kim Smith, John Nelson, and Martin Ray for a fun zoom hour of conversation!
OUR SALT ISLAND PIPING PLOVER FAM HAS A SECOND EGG IN THE NEST!
WE’RE GETTING CLOSE TO HATCH DAY – PIPING PLOVER AMBASSADORS ARE NEEDED DURING THE AFTERNOONS
OUR GOOD HAROR BEACH PIPING PLOVERS ARE HATCHING!
CAN YOU FIND THREE OF THE FOUR CHICKS IN THE PHOTO TAKEN THS MORNING?
THREE COTTONBALL-SIZED PIPING PLOVER CHICKS IN BEACH CAMO
THREE CHICKS TODAY – I DON’T THINK THE LAST HATCHLING SURVIVED
MASS AUDUBON’S COASTAL WATERBIRD PROGRAM ANNOUNCES 2019 BEST RESULTS IN DECADE
ONLY ONE PIPING PLOVER CHICK
PIPING PLOVER FAMILY ALL THREE PRESENT AND ACCOUNTED FOR!
ONE WEEK MILESTONE FOR OUR LITTLE CHICK!!!
PIPING PLOVER CHICK AND DAD
OUR LITTLE CHICK IS TEN DAYS OLD!
HAPPY FOURTH! AND OUR LITTLE CHICK AND DAD SURVIVED DYNAMITE AND FIREWORKS
MORE EXPLOSIVES AT GOOD HARBOR BEACH BUT LITTLE CHICK AND DAD COME THROUGH THE NIGHT!
STUNNING THUNDER MOON OVER GOOD HARBOR BEACH AND SHERMAN POINT
OUR PIPING PLOVER CHICK IS TWO WEEKS OLD TODAY!
A WEEK WITH THE GOOD HARBOR BEACH RED FOX FAMILY – PART ONE
BEAUTIFUL MORNING AT GOOD HARBOR WITH DAD AND MASTER WORM-CATCHER! AND THANK YOU TO AMBASSADOR SUE FOR DONATING TO GREENBELT!!
DAD AND MARSHMALLOW!
A WONDERFULLY UNEVENTFUL MORNING WITH THE PIPLS!
LINK TO SUE WINSLOW’S ARTICLE FOR NORTHSHORE MAGAZINE ABOUT OUR GHB PIPING PLOVERS
PIPING PLOVER HARASSMENT BY YOUTHS, BEACH RAKING, AND BEACH PARTYGOERS
DAD AND MARSHMALLOW SURVIVE AN EXTRAORDINARILY PACKED GOOD HARBOR BEACH!
HAPPY THREE WEEKS OLD LITTLE MARSHMALLOW!
BEAUTIFUL PAINTBOX GOOD HARBOR BEACH SUNRISE THIS MORNING
PANDEMIC PANDEMONIUM AT CAPE ANN BEACHES
MARSHMALLOW AND DAD THERMO-SNUGGLING
GLOUCESTER’S DPW ROCKS!
PIPING PLOVER CHONICLES CONTINUES!
PIPING PLOVER VIDEO FUNNY FLIPPY FLOPPY FLY THING
MARSHMALLOW ATE A BUTTERFLY THIS MORNING!
MAYOR SEFATIA RESTORES PEACE AND ORDER TO GLOUCESTER BEACHES!
SUNDAY MORNING PIPING PLOVER FAMILY UPDATE
MARSHMALLOW TAKES A BATH!
THANK YOU TAYLOR ANN BRADFORD AND THE GLOUCESTER TIMES FOR THE GREAT STORY ABOUT OUR GHB PIPLS! AND HAPPY FOUR WEEKS OLD MARSHMALLOW!
A FIRST – COMMON TERN AND PIPING PLOVER FAMILIES TOGETHER AT GOOD HARBOR BEACH!
DAD AND MARSHMALLOW ARE DOING GREAT SADLY, OUR VISITING LITTLE COMMON TERN HAS PASSED
THE OTHER MARSHMALLOW!
WING-POWER! PIPING PLOVER MARSHMALLOW UPDATE AND BUSY BEACH DAYS
HAPPY FIVE WEEKS OLD MARSHMALLOW!
HOW FAR CAN A PIPING PLOVER TRAVEL IN A DAY?
A WEEK WITH THE GOOD HARBOR BEACH RED FOX FAMILY PART TWO – if you are squeamish about baby bunnies, please skip over this post
SEMIPALMATED PLOVERS HAVE ARRIVED!
LEAST TERN BABIES AT BEAUTIFUL WINTHROP SHORE RESERVATION
THANK YOU HEATHER ATWOOD AND KORY CURCURU FOR THE FANTASTIC PIPING PLOVER 1623 STUDIOS INTERVIEW!
ALL GOOD PIPL THINGS TO SHARE!
GOOD EATING AT GOOD HARBOR! IF YOU ARE A BIRD, THAT IS 🙂
FAREWELL MARSHMALLOW, SAFE TRAVELS LITTLE CHICK!
BEAUTIFUL MORNING AT THE CREEK AND THE TREE SWALLOWS ARE MASSING! with video
Stills from 2020
May 2019 -September 2019: List coming soon
2017 Piping Plover articles by Kim Smith
Piping Plovers Have Returned to Cape Ann Beaches!
M is for May Migration Through Massachusetts
PIPING PLOVERS COURTING ON GOOD HARBOR BEACH!!
GOOD HARBOR GOOD MORNING! Featuring Twin Lights, Two Lovers, a Photographer, and Sunrise
You Didn’t Actually Think I’d Want to Live in That Dump Did You?
The Good Harbor Beach Piping Plover Pair Are Struggling and Need Our Help
HOORAY!!! The Good Harbor Beach Piping Plovers are Officially Nesting
WHAT ARE THOSE CRAZY BIRDS RUNNING AROUND GOOD HARBOR BEACH PARKING LOT?
Mom, Why are the Plovers in Jail?
Fiesta Baby Plovers!
AWESOME VOLUNTEERS MONITORING THE PIPING PLOVER CHICKS AT GOOD HARBOR BEACH
HAPPY ONE WEEK OLD BIRTHDAY FOR OUR PIPING PLOVER CHICKLETS, ALL FOUR!!! – AND VOLUNTEER HELP IS MUCH NEEDED FOR THE COMING FOURTH OF JULY WEEKEND
PIPING PLOVER UPDATE: CELEBRATING DAY TEN!
Fire on Good Harbor Beach
Piping Plovers Day Eleven!
Good Harbor Beach Piping Plovers Day Twelve
GOOD HARBOR BEACH PIPING PLOVERS DAY THIRTEEN
TWO CHICKS CELEBRATING TWO WEEK MILESTONE, ONE CHICK HANGING ON BY A THREAD
INJURED PIPING PLOVER UPDATE
INJURED PIPING PLOVER UPDATE #2
INJURED (AND NON-INJURED) PIPING PLOVER CHICKS UPDATE
OUR LITTLE PIPING PLOVER CHICK PASSED AWAY
GLORIOUS GOOD HARBOR BEACH SUNRISE
ONLY ONE CHICK SEEN THIS MORNING (*EDITED RE DOGS ON THE BEACH)
What Do Piping Plovers Eat?
CELEBRATING DAY TWENTY WITH OUR PIPING PLOVER CHICK–ALMOST-FLEDGLING
OUTSTANDING PIPING PLOVER GROWTH CHART
PIPING PLOVER BIRD BANDING DISORDERS
OUR TWENTY-TWO-DAY-OLD PIPING PLOVER IS AS PLUMP AND PERKY AS A PICKLE
HOORAY FOR OUR TWENTY-THREE-DAY-OLD PIPING PLOVER CHICK!
DAY TWENTY FOUR WITH OUR PIPING PLOVER CHICK/ALMOST FLEDGLING AND WHY MORE DOGS???
THANK YOU JOE LUCIDO!
CELEBRATING DAY TWENTY FIVE WITH OUR PIPING PLOVER CHICK, AND WHAT’S WITH THE PENCIL NECK LOOK?
PIPING PLOVER PATROL UPDATE FROM DAY TWENTY SIX!
CATS AND DOGS AND BIRDS ON THE BEACH: A DEADLY COMBINATION
SHOUT OUT TO PATTY- GOOD HARBOR BEACH #1 VOLUNTEER TRASH-PICKER-UPPER
GOOD HARBOR BEACH MAGICAL MORNING SUNRISE, FOGBOW, LAUGHING GULL, AND HOW VOLUNTEER PAUL SAVED LITTLE CHICK’S LIFE
THE GREAT AUK AT THE PAINT FACTORY! AND PIPING PLOVER DAY 28 UPDATE
LITTLE CHICK LEARNING TO FLY AND OTHER SCARY HAPPENINGS
HAPPY ONE-MONTH-OLD BIRTHDAY MILESTONE TO OUR PIPING PLOVER LITTLE CHICK!
SUPER HIGH TIDES AND LITTLE CHICK IN SLO MO
LITTLE CHICK SUPERSTAR
LITTLE CHICK CELEBRATING FIFTH WEEK MILESTONE! AND CURRENT STATUS UPDATE
EAT, SLEEP, STRETCH, CHECK IN WITH PA, REPEAT
PAPA PLOVER IS MISSING
PIPING PLOVER CHICK DAY THIRTY-SEVEN AND THIRTY-EIGHT AND NO PAPA PLOVER
BRAVO LITTLE CHICK!
WHERE WILL YOU GO LITTLE CHICK?
WHY IS LITTLE CHICK “MISSING” A LEG?
HAPPY SIX WEEK BIRTHDAY LITTLE CHICK!!!
FAREWELL LITTLE CHICK!
POSSIBLE LITTLE CHICK SIGHTINGS!
FRIENDS OF LITTLE CHICK
FRIENDS OF LITTLE CHICK UPDATE
HOW DO HURRICANES AFFECT MIGRATING SHOREBIRDS LIKE LITTLE CHICK
2016 Piping Plover articles by Kim Smith
Beautiful Good Harbor Beach Piping Plovers
SWAN, DUCKLING, AND PLOVER UPDATE AND HUGE SHOUT OUT TO THE GLOUCESTER DPW UNDER THE DIRECTION OF JOE LUCIDO FOR DOING A TREMENDOUS JOB CLEANING OUR BEACHES
Good Harbor Beach Storm Sky Drama and Piping Plover Update
Good Harbor Beach Sunrise and Piping Plover Nest
Dog Owner Trouble at Good Harbor Beach and Why It is Not a Good Idea To Ignore Federal Laws
Dog Owner and Trash Trouble at Good Harbor Beach Part Two
How to Tell the Difference Between Male and Female Piping Plovers
Three Actions We All Can Take to Help the Piping Plover Chicks Survive
Meet the Good Harbor Beach Piping Plover Chicks!
Good Harbor Beach Misty Morning Sunrise
The Good Harbor Beach Piping Plovers Update With Tips on Observing the Birds
Good Morning Gloucester, Brought to You by Good Harbor Beach
At Good Harbor Beach – Plovers Here There and Everywhere! – Tips on How to ID Piping Plovers, Killdeers, and Semipalmated Plovers
How Do You Say Plover