Tag Archives: crow predation

What Do Piping Plovers Eat?

The question should really be what don’t they eat in the world of insects and diminutive sea creatures. Over the past two summers I have filmed PiPl eating every kind of beach dwelling crawly insect and marine life imaginable.

Piping Plovers eat freshwater, land, and marine invertebrates. Their general fashion of foraging is to run, stop, peck, repeat, all the day long, and during the night as well.

Run, Stop, Peck

When foraging along the wrack line and up to the dune edge Piping Plovers eat insects, both alive and dead, including ants, spiders, grasshoppers, crickets, and beetles, along with insect larvae such as fly larvae. Foraging at the intertidal zone, Piping Plovers find sea worms, tiny mollusks, and crustaceans, as well as crustacean eggs.

When the chicks get a little older they will learn how to do a sort of foot tamping technique where they rapidly shake their feet in the sand to stir up crustaceans. I have yet to see our chicks do this, but soon enough.

The purpose of discontinuing to rake the beach to help the Piping Plovers is twofold. Not raking in the nesting site creates a habitat rich in dry seaweed and dry grasses, which attracts insects, the PiPl food on dry land. Secondly, raking in the vicinity of the Plovers after they hatch can be deadly dangerous to the chicks. Not only is there danger of being squished, but also, they can easily become stuck in the impression in the sand made by the tires of heavy machinery.

This morning I had a disagreeable conversation with a woman about her unleashed puppy. She feigned lack of knowledge about the dog ordinances, but aside from that, she informed me that her large puppy would be “afraid” of a chick. And there seems to be a frustrating lack of understanding about where the chicks forage. We can only share again that the Piping Plovers, both adults and chicks, feed from the dunes’s edge to the water’s edge, and everywhere in between. Sunrise and sunset are not safe times to walk dogs on the beach because Piping Plovers forage at all times of the day, and into the night. Adult birds can fly away from a person or dog walking and running on the beach, but a shorebird chick cannot.

Big Beach, Tiny Chick ~ Sixteen-day-old Piping Plover Chick Foraging at the Ocean Edge

ONLY ONE CHICK SEEN THIS MORNING (*EDITED RE DOGS ON THE BEACH)

Our one remaining Piping Plover chick spent the early morning in the vegetation at the edge of the dune.

Perhaps we lost the third chick to the tremendous deluge late yesterday that happened not once, but twice. Or perhaps to the crows. When I arrived at the sanctuary this morning there was a tremendous kerfuffle underway between two crows and both adults. As the crows were departing, after being vigorously chased away by the PiPl parents, I couldn’t see clearly whether or not they were carrying off a chick. Or perhaps, none of the above. There was an unleashed puppy on the beach, but after speaking with the woman, she and her dog departed. The PiPl were up by the sanctuary at that time so I am sure it wasn’t because of the puppy. I hope with all my heart we can don’t loose the one remaining chick.

*Comment added from my Facebook friend Susanne: Thank you to all for your kindness re the baby plovers. Yesterday after the downpour, I went to Good Harbor. No life guards and it was relatively quiet. There were three groups of people with dogs and two dogs were unleashed, One unleashed dog was near the piping plovers and too far from me to catch easily. I talked to two of the other dog owners. One said they didn’t know the rules and thanked me. The other said her dog is very old and this may be the last time she ever gets to walk on a beach. I love dogs and hope people have a lovely time on our beautiful beaches. I also wish they cared more about following our beach rules, which are common sense and about caring for others.

The adults and chick were acting oddly this morning, not wanting to venture too far from the symbolically roped off area. Papa Plover spent a great deal of time perched on the party rock and surveying the family’s territory (not usual behavior), and got into several times with the Interloper.

Thank you so much to all our volunteers who are trying their best to help keep these beautiful protected birds safe.