Piping Plover
(Charadrius melodus)


Picture of bird
© Glen Tepke (www.pbase.com/gtepke)
For additional photos and vocalizations, visit Dendroica. (Link opens in a new window.)

There are two subspecies of Piping Plover in Canada; approximately one quarter of Canada’s Piping Plovers are found in the Atlantic provinces (C. m. melodus) while 75% breed in the prairie provinces (C. m. circumcinctus; COSEWIC 2013c). A small number currently breed on the shores of the Great Lakes in Ontario (C. m. circumcinctus), where they had been extirpated for decades. Numbers in the prairies appear to vary widely, while the population on the east coast of Canada has been declining in most recent years. Population levels in the 1970s were in decline, prompting the species to be designated as endangered in Canada. In the United States, the Great Lakes population is considered endangered; elsewhere it is considered threatened. Both subspecies have small population sizes that are well below management goals and have shown declines over either the long- (since 1991) or short-term (2003-2013). For more detailed information on these two subspecies, see the individual subspecies accounts. This species has been identified as a priority for conservation and/or stewardship in one or more Bird Conservation Region Strategies in Canada.

See also:

Piping Plover circumcinctus subspecies
Piping Plover melodus subspecies


Listing of the main designations for the species
DesignationStatusDateSubspecies, population
COSEWIC (Canada)Endangered2013Piping Plover circumcinctus subspecies
COSEWIC (Canada)Endangered2013Piping Plover melodus subspecies
SARA (Canada)Endangered2003Piping Plover circumcinctus subspecies
SARA (Canada)Endangered2003Piping Plover melodus subspecies
IUCN (Global)Near threatened2012 
Wild Species (Canada)At Risk2010 
Bird Conservation Region StrategyPriority Species2013 

Population status

Geographic areaStatusReliability
CanadaModerate DecreaseMedium

Population estimate

Canada1,000 - 10,000 adults (includes birds breeding and migrating within Canada)

Distribution maps


Migration strategy, occurrence

Short-distance migrant

Responsibility for conservation of world population


Conservation and management

Both subspecies of Piping Plovers have small population sizes, which means that even localised disturbances can have significant population-level effects. In Atlantic Canada and Ontario Great Lakes, frequent human disturbance of birds nesting on beaches can lead to abandonment or destruction of nests (Elliott-Smith and Haig 2004). In prairie Canada, climate- or human-induced changes to water levels affect habitat suitability, and could reduce habitat availability in the long-term (Gratto-Trevor and Abbott 2011). Loss of beach habitat on its wintering grounds could also affect the species. Although active management has resulted in range-wide increases in the abundance of Piping Plovers in North America, the species continues to face significant conservation challenges. For information on the legal status of this species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) and to view available recovery documents, see the SARA Registry.


Bird conservation region strategies

Environment and Climate Change Canada and partners have developed Bird Conservation Region Strategies in each of Canada’s Bird Conservation Regions (BCRs). In these strategies, selected species are identified as priorities for one or more of the following reasons:

  • conservation concerns (i.e., species vulnerable due to population size, distribution, population trend, abundance, or threats)
  • stewardship responsibilities (i.e., species that typify the regional avifauna or have a large proportion of their range or population in the sub-region)
  • management concerns (i.e., species that require ongoing management because of their socio-economic importance as game species, or because of their impacts on other species or habitats)
  • other concerns (i.e., species deemed a priority by regional experts for other reasons than those listed above or because they are listed as species at risk or concern at the provincial level)

Select any of the sub-regions below to view the BCR strategy for additional details.

BCRs, marine biogeographic units, and sub-regions in which the species is listed as a priority
RegionSub-region and priority type
Prairie PotholesPrairie Potholes, sub-region and priority type: Prairie and Northern Region