CONTACT:
Brendan Clifford,  (603) 271-0463
Jane Vachon,  (603) 271-3211
July 16, 2007       

Endangered Piping Plover Chicks Hatch at Hampton Beach State Park

CONCORD, N.H. -- A clutch of federally threatened and state-endangered piping plover chicks hatched July 11, 2007, at Hampton Beach State Park, N.H., and three chicks are being watched closely by volunteers and monitors to ensure their safety and survival.

"This is exciting news, because we only have one nest of plovers remaining this year," said Brendan Clifford, a biological aide with the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department's Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Program.  Initially this year, three plover pairs had nested on New Hampshire beaches, but the nests were all destroyed by strong winds and high tides related to storms.  One of the pairs nested a second time, resulting in the successful July 11 hatch.

With the arrival of the plover chicks at Hampton Beach State Park, Fish and Game urges beachgoers to be careful and attentive during this vacation season.  "Plovers are coming back from the brink thanks to the efforts of monitors and beachgoers.  Helping to protect these chicks is a rare opportunity for people to do something that can actually help save a threatened species," said Clifford.

Ways you can help include:

  • Respect signs and remain outside areas designated for the plovers' protection.
  • Prevent predation: If you live near the beach, keep cats indoors.  Remember that dogs are not permitted at Hampton Beach State Park.
  • Fill in holes on the beach - plover chicks can fall into them and die.

Piping plovers are small shorebirds that are sand-colored on top and white underneath. In breeding plumage, they can be distinguished from other shorebirds by a pale back, dark black neck ring and a band across the brow.  The tiny chicks look like cottonballs on toothpick legs. 

Plovers are extremely vulnerable to predators and human and natural disturbances.  They lay their eggs directly on the beach, without any fortified protection. To help protect the piping plovers, Nongame Program staff and volunteers have fenced off areas close to the nesting pairs and put up signs.  A predator exclosure protects the nest, allowing piping plovers to move freely while keeping possible predators out.  Beach raking or mechanical beach cleaning has been temporarily stopped, because the chicks feed off small invertebrates found in the wrack line.

The success of the piping plovers depends on public cooperation.  "Even with full support from volunteers and a full-time monitor, we can't watch the plovers and nests at all times.  We need support from the public to help them survive," says Clifford. If you'd like to volunteer to assist Fish and Game's plover monitor Samantha Niziolek, call 603-419-9728.

Protection efforts will continue now that the eggs have hatched. Plover chicks can walk and eat within hours after hatching, but are unable to fly for the first 25 days of life, making them extremely vulnerable.  During the course of the summer, chicks must eat and grow as quickly as possible without disturbance to gain energy to survive the southward migration.

A federally threatened and state-endangered species, piping plovers have been the focus of a massive region-wide effort.  Fish and Game's Nongame Program has provided protection and monitoring for this rare bird since 1996.  In the past decade, an average of 5 nesting pairs have returned to the New Hampshire seacoast each year.  Since the monitoring began, 74 chicks have successfully fledged in New Hampshire.

To learn more about New Hampshire's efforts to protect this endangered shorebird click here for a pdf of the feature article "Plover Patrol," from the July/August 2007 issue of N.H. Wildlife Journal magazine. 

Protection of this endangered species in New Hampshire 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.

Learn more about piping plovers at plover.fws.gov.

Click here to find out more about Fish and Game's Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Program.

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