Tag Archives: hours old Piping Plover Chicks

NORTH SHORE PIPING PLOVERS ARE HATCHING! AND HOW WE CAN ALL HELP PROTECT THE PLOVERS

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.

PiPl chicks hatched at several beaches on the North Shore, while at some locations the Plovers are just getting started.Hours old Piping Plover chick with Dad

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.

The very definition of camouflaged!

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 kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com

Hours old chick on the go

 

FIRST LOOK – OUR GOOD HARBOR BEACH PIPNG PLOVER CHICKS (ALL FOUR!) HATCHED!!!

Only hours-old, our Good Harbor Beach Piping Plover chicks were learning to navigate the varied terrain–climbing mini hummocks, falling into divots, somersaulting, tripping over dried bits of beach grass and seaweed, running for short bits, and just generally stumbling and tumbling. In one photo you can even see a chick already eating a tiny ant. After an afternoon of exploring, all four seemed pretty tuckered out and were taking turns snuggling under both Mama and Papa. 

Weighing about as much as a nickel at the time of hatching, Piping Plover chicks are able to feed themselves but are unable to regulate their body temperature. They need to tuck under Mom and Dad to warm up.

A-D-O-R-A-B-L-E HOURS OLD PIPING PLOVER CHICKS!

These sweet Piping Plover chicks are only hours old. All four are healthy, vigorous, and already feeding themselves and stretching their wing buds. They sure were giving their Mom and Dad reason to panic as they ran hither and thither, not yet understanding the adults piping voice commands. A dog ran through the nesting area and a pair of Crows added to the parent’s stress. After both parents briefly left the chicks to distract the dog and give chase to the Crows, calmness was restored and three snuggled under Mom while the fourth kept dad on the run.

*Note–I have been following and filming half a dozen PiPl nests around the state and just to be clear in case of any confusion, these are not our Good Harbor Beach PiPls 🙂

There have been quite a few PiPl chicks hatching around New England beaches. The cool, overcast weather will benefit the hatchlings tremendously. The beaches are relatively quieter, with fewer people, dogs, and trash that attracts avian predators, which will help allow the babies to reach that critical one week old age.

Finding insects in the wrack zone

Tiny wing buds

Adorableness <3

GOODNIGHT SWEET PARKING LOT PLOVER FAMILY

Chicks Tucked Under Papa Plover

Thanks to today’s dozen or so volunteers, Gloucester’s DPW crew, and John and Jasmine from Mass Wildlife, our parking lot PiPl family made it through day one with flying colors (meaning all four chicks survived). It appears as if they are slowly advancing towards the beach. Plovers are active at night–perhaps they’ll make the migration tonight after the lot is closed–let’s hope.

We need more volunteers, at least two per shift would be fantastic. More eyes equals better coverage. Please contact Ken Whittaker at if you would like to be a PiPl volunteer monitor kwhittaker@gloucester-ma.gov.

BREAKING NEWS: OUR PIPING PLOVER GOOD HARBOR BEACH PARKING LOT CHICKS HAVE HATCHED!!!

Our Piping Plover chicks began hatching yesterday afternoon. The fourth chick hatched today at 7:50am. We have all been on pins and needles and are overjoyed that all four babies appear to be healthy and vigorous.

Hopping over the yet-to-hatch egg and testing out tiny wing buds

Piping Plovers lend true meaning to the expression “take under a protective wing.”

With thanks and gratitude to Joe Lucido and our amazing DPW, Gloucester’ s conservation agent Ken Whittaker, Mayor Sefatia, Dave Rimmer from Greenbelt, Jonathan and Jasmine from Mass Wildlife, and to all our volunteers (especially Heather Hall who has been at the GHB parking lot every single day for several hours) for helping us get this far. Now the truly challenging phase begins, which is helping the chicks grow to the next stage of life. Piping Plover Chicks fledge on average at about 35 days, which is almost to the day when last year’s Little Chick departed our shores.

We were hoping to keep the hatching on the down low for a few days, but the PiPl is out of the bag, so to speak. Volunteer Piping Plovers are most definitely needed. Please contact Ken Whittaker at kwhittaker@gloucester-ma.gov

The first to venture out of the exclosure (at 7am this morning). Piping Plovers are precocial birds, which means that within hours after hatching they are mobile and relatively mature. Piping Plover chicks begin to feed themselves within the first 24 hours after hatching.

Kenny Ryan, Cindy Frost, Cliff King, and Joe Lucido

DPW Crew laying out the temporarily restricted parking area. The cordoned off zone will be in place this weekend and until the PiPl migrate to the beach.

Cliff King and Jasmine Weber – Jasmine joined the team yesterday. She is an intern at Mass Wildlife and will be with us all weekend.

Early this morning the Bachelor appeared on the scene, again, causing yet another kerfuffle. Papa leapt off the nest and chased him away, with a good bit of ruffled feathers.

A few more snapshots–see how adorable they are–wouldn’t you like to be a Piping Plover monitor this upcoming month <3