Shore + Sound

Swimming, Clamming & Heavy Rain               Plovers and Others               
The Water of Long Island Sound               Trends Under the (Rising) Surface

Plover Drawing

Climate Change Symbol

Piping Plovers and Others

Quick Summary - x check check


The amount of successful plover nests in 2018 was down from 2017, but the productivity rate was close to the goal.


Piping Plovers are small shorebirds that nest only on sandy beaches with sparse vegetation. People, storm tides and predators frequently destroy nests.
The number of plovers on Connecticut's beaches now exceeds the estimated "recovery potential" level (see above). However, the modest size of the population requires that the species continue in threatened status at the state and national level.  
Nesting adults are counted (and in most cases protected) every spring by hundreds of volunteers working with the Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds, The Nature Conservancy and other organizations. 
Their habitat is a narrow strip squeezed between a rising Sound and higher ground. The Piping Plover population is, according to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, "an indicator of the health of the fragile beach ecosystem." (Atlantic Coast Piping Plover Revised Recovery Plan)
Since protection and monitoring efforts began in 1984, nesting success has improved, resulting in more returning adults in subsequent years. In 2018, 64 pairs successfully raised 75 young plovers on 11 Connecticut beaches, predominantly between Bridgeport and West Haven; down from 100 young plovers and 66 pairs in 2017 (a modern record). Scientists estimate that each pair must successfully raise an average of 1.20 young per year to maintain a stable population of Piping Plovers. In 2018, Connecticut plovers raised an average of 1.17 chicks per nest.

Other Beach Residents

The protections afforded Piping Plovers benefit other threatened species, including American Oystercatchers and Least Terns

The least tern count was noticeably lower again in 2018: 236 adult least terns were counted on Connecticut shores, down from 244 adult terns in 2017 and 250 adult terns in 2016. This year’s pairs were only able to raise 14 chicks, a significant decrease from 31 fledged chicks in 2017. This low number reflects the numerous challenges confronting wildlife on Connecticut beaches. While Connecticut's least tern numbers have been variable from year to year, the recent steep decline in Connecticut and the Northeast region is currently being investigated.
Oystercatcher pairs had a record high year in 2017, with a population of 63 pairs and the second best year for productivity: 63 oystercatcher fledglings, a better-than-average number. Figures for 2018 have not yet been made available.

Oyster Catcher    Quick Summary - dash dash check
American Oystercatchers
      parent and young

Least Terns Eggs    Quick Summary - x dash dash
            Least Terns
        still in their eggs

The Goal for Piping Plovers

When the federal government listed the Piping Plover as a threatened species in 1986, Connecticut was home to an estimated 40 nesting adults (in 20 pairs). The entire population inhabiting the Atlantic coast from Canada to North Carolina was estimated to number about 1,600. An initial recovery goal was set for 2,400 birds over the plover's entire Atlantic coast range. The federal government reviewed the goal in 1996 and revised the overall Atlantic coast goal upward to 4,000 birds; New England's share of the newer target is about 1,200 birds. At that time, scientists estimated Connecticut to have habitat for at least 120 nesting birds (depicted above as "recovery potential"). The breeding population of Massachusetts has been so successful since then that New England's overall goal has been met. Connecticut now appears to have reached its potential (as estimated in 1996); perhaps a future reassessment will show the potential habitat to be greater than it was known to be.

Plover Drawing 2