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Allison Briggaman: (603) 271-0463
Jane Vachon: (603) 271-3211
May 19, 2005

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Help Protect Piping Plovers on N.H. Seacoast

CONCORD, N.H. -- Residents and visitors are being urged to help protect the state-endangered and federally threatened piping plovers nesting on New Hampshire's seacoast. To protect the birds, the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department has set up fencing along the beaches and posted signs near piping plover breeding areas. The fencing will remain in place until all chicks have fledged or have left the beach for wintering areas. These measures help provide the birds with space free from disturbance by humans and predators, where the plovers can perform courtship and mating and establish nests.

In addition to fencing measures, mechanical cleaning or beach raking will be temporarily restricted in areas where piping plover chicks are present (typically during parts of June and July). This is important because the wrack, or seaweed, that washes ashore provides a vital food source to young chicks, and motorized vehicles can crush eggs and young birds.

"We appreciate the public's patience, cooperation and understanding of the need to respect nesting areas and avoid beach raking during a critical time for the plovers," said John Kanter, coordinator of Fish and Game's Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Program. "Together, we're helping to give an endangered species a chance for survival."

Last year, four pairs of piping plovers nested at Seabrook Town Beach and Hampton Beach State Park, fledging four chicks. In 2003, seven pairs of plovers fledged seven chicks. Since protection efforts began in 1996, more than 70 chicks have fledged from New Hampshire's seacoast.

Piping plovers are small shorebirds that are sand-colored on top and white underneath. They can be distinguished from other shorebirds by a black band across the forehead, a black band around the neck and bright orange legs.

Piping plover nests are simply small scrapes or depressions in the sand and typically contain three or four eggs. When the chicks hatch, they are tiny and look like cottonball bodies on toothpick legs. Piping plover chicks can walk and eat within hours after hatching, but they are unable to fly for the first 30 days of life. During this time, they are extremely vulnerable to predators like gulls, crows, cats, foxes and skunks. They are also susceptible to being stepped on by dogs or people unaware of their presence.

Here's how you can help protect piping plovers:

  • Respect signs and fences around nesting areas.

  • Be a responsible pet owner - walk dogs in areas where piping plovers are not present and keep cats indoors. Dogs can chase plovers and step on eggs and chicks, killing them. Cats are a major predator of many types of birds, including piping plovers.

  • Fill in holes on the beach. Piping plover chicks can fall in and become trapped.

  • Fly kites a safe distance away from plovers.

  • Don't approach or linger near piping plovers or their nests.

  • Teach children safe viewing and respect for wildlife.

  • Obey local fireworks laws. Fireworks stress adult piping plovers and their chicks and can cause accidental fires that destroy dune vegetation.

  • Pick up trash and food on the beach. Garbage attracts predators, such as gulls and crows, which prey on plover eggs, chicks and sometimes adults.

  • Report observations. Report vehicle use, unlawful fireworks, off-leash dogs or vandalism to your local police department.

  • Volunteer! If you enjoy watching birds and want to help protect the piping plovers, call New Hampshire Fish and Game at (603) 271-2461.

Protection of this endangered species is a cooperative effort of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, N.H. Fish and Game, N.H. Parks and Recreation, the Town of Seabrook, the Town of Hampton, volunteers, local residents and beach visitors.

For more information on piping plovers, visit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife website at http://plover.fws.gov.

For more on New Hampshire Fish and Game's Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Program, click here.

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