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CONTACT:
Brendan Clifford: 603) 271-0463
Heather Kleczek: (603) 419-9728
Jane Vachon: (603) 271-3211
May 24, 2010

 

plover chicks
Endangered piping plover chicks are expected to hatch on N.H.'s beaches by Memorial Day weekend. Marquis Walsh photo

Endangered Piping Plovers Present on N.H. Beaches this Memorial Day Weekend

CONCORD, N.H. – The breeding season for the state endangered and federally threatened piping plover shorebirds is underway on the New Hampshire seacoast. Beach-goers are asked to be aware that plovers are present this upcoming Memorial Day weekend and take caution to protect them on New Hampshire beaches now and throughout the summer months.

“Currently there are three pairs of piping plovers present on N.H. beaches; two at Hampton Beach State Park and one at Seabrook Beach,” said Brendan Clifford, a biologist with the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department’s Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Program. “One of the pairs at Hampton Beach State Park established a nest this past weekend, while the other pair has been observed defending ihttp://plover.fws.govts breeding territory, performing courtship and making nest scrapes – indicating they could be nesting any day.”

In Seabrook, there is currently one pair of piping plovers, and they are incubating a nest with four eggs. “We expect these eggs to hatch on, or just before, Memorial Day weekend,” said Clifford.

“Our goal is to get the birds to nest, have the chicks hatch and be able to fly as soon as possible each spring, so that we can take down the fencing and open up the whole beach for people to use as the weather gets warmer,” said Susi von Oettingen, a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Within just a few hours of hatching, piping plover chicks are able to walk and feed on their own. However, they cannot fly until they are about a month old, and they are very small and hard to see. “The chicks are extremely vulnerable during this time, so Fish and Game staff and volunteers will be keeping close watch over the hatchlings until they fledge,” Clifford noted.

Monitoring will be ongoing throughout the summer, until all chicks have fledged and the plovers begin to migrate south for the winter. 

NH Fish and Game and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ask that everyone visiting New Hampshire beaches where piping plovers are nesting to respect fenced-off areas to allow the birds space to perform courtship, nest and raise their young during the busy summer months.

These birds need all the help they can get if they are going to have a chance to survive. They have a number of natural predators that prey on the eggs and young, such as gulls, crows, skunks and foxes.  Introduced predators like feral cats and dogs are added threats, and the birds also must compete with humans for space on the beaches to nest and raise their young.

Beachgoers can follow a few small steps that will make a big difference in whether or not piping plover chicks survive to fledgling age:  

  • Watch where you step – The chick’s defense mechanism is to freeze when people get close, which makes them difficult to see. The chicks are about the size of a cottonball and light colored, so they blend in with the sand.

  • Leash your dog - Free-running dogs can accidentally step on and crush eggs and chase after the chicks and adult plovers.  Hampton Beach State Park and the Town of Seabrook both have restrictions regarding dogs on beaches during the summer. People should check before bringing their dog on any public beach.

  • Fill in holes – holes in the sand are traps for the tiny chicks that can’t fly. Filling in any holes on the beach helps the chicks move about and find the food they need to grow strong and be able to fly. 
     
  • Volunteer!  Volunteers will be needed to help with monitoring once the plover chicks begin to hatch around Memorial Day. Anyone interested in volunteering can contact the N.H. Fish and Game Piping Plover Monitor at 603-419-9728.

N.H. Fish and Game is working closely again this year with beach managers to coordinate beach raking and plover protection. Beach maintenance may occur, as long as it is coordinated in advance with N.H. Fish and Game and does not pose a threat to the piping plovers.

Regular updates on the piping plover breeding season can be found on the piping plover project page of the NH Fish and Game website at www.wildnh.com/Wildlife/Nongame/projects/plover_project.html.

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 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, N.H. Fish and Game Department, N.H. Division of 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.

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