Pipping Plovers on Cape Cod

by Donna Cain


I just read a brochure about Piping Plovers that was published by the National Park Services. I found the literature so informative and a perfect topic for our Captain Freeman Inn blog.


The Plover is a small shorebird that winters in the southeast, similar to our snowbirds on Cape Cod that we lovingly call our summer folks that winter in Florida:) Every spring, the piping plover return to the shores of Cape Cod where they each establish territories and form pairs. During this time and through most of the summer, the plovers build their nests and lay eggs in the dunes or above the high tide lines. Their nests are not made of twigs like many of our song birds, but rather are shallow depressions made in the sand and called scrapes.

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The female typically lays four eggs and  the male and female take turns laying on the eggs to incubate them. The eggs hatch in about 25 days, and within hours of hatching, the tiny chicks are scurrying around looking for food. It’s fun to watch the plovers on the beach as they run and dart quickly to catch insects, amphipods and other invertebrates found on the surface of the sand.

The next time you see a cluster of plovers on the beach, note how their coloring blends perfectly with the sand to avoid detection by their predators. When a predator does approach a nest, one of the adults will scurry down the beach dragging one wing and making loud noises.

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The National Park Services has several suggestions on how we can share the beach with these wonderful shorebirds without upsetting their habitat. Listed below is some helpful guidelines:

  • pay attention to signs that are posted
  • Don’t feed wildlife or leave food scrapes or trash on the beach
  • Keep your dog on a leash
  • You might see pedestrian detours or be requested to move quickly through an area
  • Set up your beach blanket far from posts or strings which are used as symbolic fencing where nests are

You can learn more about the piping plover at: http://www.fws.gov/northeast/piping-plover.htm

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