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Piping Plovers


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The number of plover chicks to reach flight age or “fledge” in 2023 was greater than in 2022, but productivity declined.

Piping plovers are small shorebirds that nest only on sandy beaches with sparse vegetation. In 2023, piping plovers in Connecticut raised an average of 1.35 chicks per nest. While productivity was good in 2023, it was less than last year (1.47), the goal (1.5), and the previous ten-year average (1.55). In 2023, 79 nesting pairs successfully raised 107 young plovers (fledglings) on Connecticut beaches. The number of nesting pairs and fledglings both increased from the previous year by twenty percent and ten percent, respectively. Some of the causes for the lower than average productivity in 2023 was attributed to predation and human/pet interaction.55 Scientists estimate that each pair must successfully raise an average of 1.20 young per year to maintain a stable population and an average of 1.50 young per year to successfully increase the population of piping plovers to sustainable levels. Since protection and monitoring efforts began in 1984, nesting success has generally improved, resulting in more returning adults in subsequent years. 

Public Act 23-155 allows the Commissioner of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) to establish a seabird and shorebird protection program, including the designation of protected areas on state-owned public property within the state’s coastal area and penalties for disturbing such designated areas. No seabird and shorebird protection areas were designated in 2023 because that provision of the law became effective in October 2023, which was after the nesting/breeding period.

The piping plover population is, according to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), "an indicator of the health of the fragile beach ecosystem."56 Their habitat is a narrow strip squeezed between a rising Sound and higher ground. If their habitat is able to migrate upslope and inland in response to sea level rise, breeding areas could increase. However, habitat loss is anticipated on 45 percent of sandy ocean beaches that are already developed. Coastal flooding during breeding season might also affect piping plover breeding success by flooding nests and thereby increasing chick mortality.57

Goal: The goal for piping plover was derived from the Piping Plover Atlantic Coast Population Revised Recovery Plan (1996). That Plan's goal calls for 2,000 pairs along the east coast with 625 pairs throughout New England, and a five-year average productivity of 1.5 fledged chicks per pair. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s 2019 Atlantic Coast Piping Plover Abundance and Productivity Estimates, there were 2,008 breeding pairs along the Atlantic coast, with over 980 breeding pairs in New England!58



55 DEEP, Wildlife Division; personal communication from L. Saucier, March 7, 2024.

56 Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus) Atlantic Coast Population Revised Recovery Plan, May 2, 1996, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), omnilearn.net/esacourse/pdfs/piping_plover_recovery_plan96.pdf.
57 USFWS, “Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus) 5-Year Review: Summary and Evaluation”, March 2020, p. 138; ecos.fws.gov/docs/five_year_review/doc6378.pdf.

58  USFWS, 2019 Atlantic Coast Piping Plover Abundance and Productivity Estimates; www.fws.gov/sites/default/files/documents/news-attached-files/2019-Update-Final.pdf.