CONTACT:
      Brendan Clifford, (603) 271-0463 
      Jane Vachon, (603) 271-3211
      October 22, 2009

More Piping Plover Pairs Nest on N.H. Seacoast, but Few Young Survive

CONCORD, N.H. – The spring breeding season got off to a promising start for New Hampshire’s state and federally endangered piping plovers, but as the 2009 summer came to a close, just two chicks had fledged.

This year, a total of five pairs of the shorebirds returned to coastal beaches in Seabrook and Hampton, an increase from the three pairs that have nested in New Hampshire in recent years. Spring weather was mild, and each pair of plovers quickly established a territory and a nest. “We started off with three nests in Seabrook and two nests in Hampton,” said Brendan Clifford, a biological technician with the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department’s Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Program. Each nest had a full clutch of four eggs, so had all of them survived, they would have produced 20 chicks.
Sadly, only two plover chicks survived to the end of summer.

Even sadder, human disturbance was the most likely cause of the season’s low productivity. At Hampton Beach State Park, the first nest established had protective fencing, called an “exclosure,” set up around it to keep predators at bay. Early in the year, a person broke into the fence and stole one of the plover eggs, an incident investigated by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Law Enforcement officers. Although the adult plovers continued to incubate the remaining three eggs after the incident, only one of them hatched.

At Seabrook Beach, beachgoers were frequently observed disregarding signs and walking directly through a roped-off plover breeding area. These intrusions repeatedly scared one pair of piping plovers off of their nest, preventing them from being able to incubate their eggs. Eventually, the pair abandoned the nest altogether.

In all, two of five of New Hampshire’s plover nests were abandoned prior to hatching.  Of the three nests that successfully hatched eggs, two produced a single fledgling each, while no chicks survived from the final nest.

Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Program biologists and volunteers monitored the plovers on a daily basis during the summer to determine the number of birds present, nest locations, nest success or failure, incubation periods and chick survival.
Since protection efforts began in 1997, a total of 83 piping plover chicks have fledged from New Hampshire's seacoast.  New Hampshire's efforts are part of a region-wide protection program; overall, the Atlantic coast population of piping plovers continues to hold steady.

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

See photos of the New Hampshire plovers and learn more about this endangered species at www.wildnh.com/Wildlife/Wildlife_profiles/piping_plover.html.

The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department’s Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Program protects more than 400 species of mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians, plus thousands of insects and other invertebrates. Visit www.wildnh.com/nongame.

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