Species Profile

Piping Plover circumcinctus subspecies

Scientific Name: Charadrius melodus circumcinctus
Taxonomy Group: Birds
COSEWIC Range: Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario
COSEWIC Assessment Date and Status Change: November 2013
COSEWIC Status: Endangered
COSEWIC Status Criteria: C2a(ii)
COSEWIC Reason for Designation: The interior subspecies of this shorebird is projected to decline over the longer term, particularly if concerted conservation efforts are relaxed. Overall numbers remain low and adult survival has been poor over the last decade. Threats from predation, human disturbance, and declines in habitat extent and quality continue.  
COSEWIC History of Status Designation: The species was considered a single unit and designated Threatened in April 1978. Status re-examined and designated Endangered in April 1985. In May 2001, the species was re-examined and split into two groups according to subspecies. The circumcinctus subspecies was designated Endangered in May 2001.Status re-examined and confirmed in November 2013.
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Endangered
Date of Listing (yyyy-mm-dd): 2003-06-05

Please note that this information is provided for general information purposes only. For the most up to date and accurate list of species listed under the Species at Risk Act, please see the Justice Laws Website.

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Quick Links: | Photo | Description | Distribution and Population | Habitat | Biology | Threats | Protection | Recovery Initiatives | Recovery Team | National Recovery Program | Documents

Image of Piping Plover circumcinctus subspecies

Piping Plover circumcinctus subspecies Photo 1

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Description

The Piping Plover is a small, thrush-sized shorebird that blends well into its setting. It is primarily the colour of dry sand, but has distinctive black markings (a black collar or breastband, a black band above the white forehead, and a partially black tail); a white rump; and bright orange legs. The short and stout bill is orange with a black tip, and becomes black in winter.

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Distribution and Population

The circumcinctus subspecies of the Piping Plover is a North American bird that breeds on the American shores of the Great Lakes (Michigan) and throughout the Great Plains from the southern Canadian prairies to Nebraska. It winters along the Atlantic coast, from South Carolina to Florida, and along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. In Canada, the circumcinctus subspecies breeds in central Alberta, southern Saskatchewan, southern Manitoba, and used to breed in southern Ontario. The numbers of Piping Plovers have been decreasing everywhere. However, the most dramatic declines have occurred in the Great Lakes region. The last known nesting of Piping Plovers on the Canadian Great Lakes occurred at Long Point in 1977. The prairie region had an estimated 1687 adults in 1996. About 25% of the Canadian prairie population occurs in the Quill Lakes area of Saskatchewan, where more than 430 Piping Plovers were observed in 1996.

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Habitat

Piping Plovers nest just above the normal high-water mark on exposed sandy or gravelly beaches. On the prairies, nesting occurs on gravel shores of shallow, saline lakes and on sandy shores of larger prairie lakes. Seeps also provide important foraging habitat on the Prairies.

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Biology

Piping Plovers arrive on their breeding grounds in Canada in late April or May. Males establish a territory and attract a mate with dramatic aerial and ground displays. They scrape a shallow nest-site in sand or gravel, which the female then inspects. Clutches usually contain 4 eggs. Both parents participate in the incubation of eggs and care of nestlings, though the young are able to find their own food within hours of hatching. Females can begin to breed at one year of age and will renest once or twice in a season if the eggs are destroyed, but raise only one brood per year.

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Threats

The most important limiting factor for the Piping Plover circumcinctus subspecies is loss of habitat due to human use of beaches, and the consequent disturbance of nesting sites. Dogs and cats prey on the eggs and young, as do gulls and raccoons initially attracted to the nesting areas by picnickers’ garbage. On the Prairies, cattle and horses are known to trample nests, and chicks can be trapped in their deep hoofprints. Changes in water levels due to recreational or building activities, dams, and seasonal storms also threaten the nesting sites of this subspecies.

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Protection

Federal Protection

The Piping Plover circumcinctus subspecies is protected under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.

The Piping Plover circumcinctus subspecies is protected by the federal Migratory Birds Convention Act. Under this Act, it is prohibited to kill, harm, or collect adults, young, and eggs. It is protected under the Canada National Parks Act where it is found in Point Pelee National Park. The subspecies is also protected under the Endangered Species Acts of Manitoba and Ontario and the Saskatchewan and Alberta Wildlife Acts. The Quill Lakes area of Saskatchewan is internationally recognized as a significant Important Bird Area (IBA). Conservation plans for IBAs in Canada are developed in partnership with landowners, naturalists, hunters, government agencies and municipalities, Aboriginal groups, scientists, and others.

Provincial and Territorial Protection

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.

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Recovery Initiatives

Status of Recovery Planning

Recovery Strategies :

Name Recovery Strategy for the Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus circumcinctus) in Canada
Status Final posting on SAR registry

Name Addendum to the Final Recovery Strategy for the Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus circumcinctus) in Canada RE: Identification of Critical Habitat
Status Final posting on SAR registry

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Recovery Team

Alberta Piping Plover Recovery Team

  • David Prescott - Chair/Contact - Government of Alberta
    Phone: 403-340-4309  Fax: 403-340-5575  Send Email

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Recovery Progress and Activities

Summary of Progress to Date A National Recovery Plan, covering both the circumcinctus and melodus subspecies was published in 2002. Separate recovery teams (Prairie Piping Plover Recovery Team and Atlantic Piping Plover Recovery Team) deal with the two subspecies which have different ecological requirements. Additionally, an Alberta Piping Plover recovery team focuses on plovers within that province and Manitoba and Ontario both have a recovery implementation group which oversees recovery activities in their respective provinces. The Chair of the Prairie Piping Plover Recovery Team is also a member of the International Piping Plover Coordination Group which concerns itself with broader issues of recovery and research. The Canadian Wildlife Service is in communication with the U. S. Great Lakes Piping Plover Recovery Team thereby establishing a relationship in anticipation of plovers breeding again in southern Ontario. The long-term goal of the 2002 National Recovery Plan is to achieve a viable, self-sustaining, and well-distributed population of at least 2296 adult piping plovers during three consecutive international censuses (11 years). The long-term objectives for Prairie Canada are to increase and maintain a median chick fledging rate greater than 1.25 chicks per pair per year and to achieve a minimum of 300 individuals in Alberta, 1200 in Saskatchewan, 120 in Manitoba, and six in the Lake of the Woods region of Ontario. The plan recommends research and management activities for the period 2000 - 2004. An updated recovery strategy is being developed to direct future recovery efforts. Summary of Research/Monitoring Activities Surveys have been conducted from the 1980s to the present to locate all active Piping Plover breeding areas in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Ontario. In Alberta, adult and brood surveys are conducted annually at a minimum of 25 lakes. The primary breeding sites in Manitoba also are surveyed annually. Surveys in Saskatchewan, are limited primarily to research sites. Saskatchewan?s large number of wetlands, geographical distances, and limited resources makes annual monitoring of all sites unfeasible. An extensive review of historical habitat use by Piping Plovers in Alberta identified over 75 lakes in the province that had been used by Piping Plovers, including 45 lakes with confirmed nesting. Approximately half of the sites are privately owned and the other half are on Crown land. This information is being used by the Alberta recovery team to target outreach and management activities. Piping Plover habitat was assessed at 52 high priority basins in southern Saskatchewan to identify potential threats to breeding success at these basins. The results of this study were used to negotiate cooperative enhancement projects with land managers to reduce these threats. Current research field activities include a population dynamics study in Saskatchewan to assess survival and site fidelity of Piping Plovers Summary of Recovery Activities A significant success in plover management has been the development and wide-scale implementation of a small, portable predator exclosure. Smaller than most previously used exclosures, this exclosure is less attractive as perches for raptors and rubbing posts for cattle, and is less visible to the public. Studies show that predator exclosures placed over nests are effective in increasing hatching success. This inexpensive and effective management tool has gained widespread use in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. Predator exclosures more than double Piping Plover hatching success at managed sites. Outreach initiatives have met with great success, increasing awareness of plovers among landowners, beach users, and industry, thereby decreasing disturbance of nesting plovers. Additionally, cooperative habitat enhancement projects have been completed at numerous lakes in the prairies. In Alberta, by removing inactive American Crow nests at some plover lakes during the winter, biologists hope to reduce potential nesting habitat for species (particularly Merlins) that prey upon adult plovers. Although the effectiveness of this strategy has not yet been determined, the hope is that it will contribute to the recovery of the plover in Alberta. Combined conservation efforts may have resulted in an increase in the Alberta Piping Plover population which has increased to 206 adults in 2005. Piping Plovers are highly vulnerable during the breeding season to disturbance by people, pets, cattle, and all-terrain vehicles. Their well-concealed nests are easily trampled. Therefore, co-operation by landowners, livestock producers, government agencies, conservation organizations, bird watchers, and recreationists is essential to protecting Piping Plovers and their habitat during their breeding season. Regulations and outreach are both used to discourage disturbance at nesting beaches. Piping Plover nesting beaches at Grand Beach, Manitoba are closely monitored during the breeding season and predator exclosures are placed over nests to protect eggs from gulls. Volunteer guardians at Grand Beach patrol the beach in order to share information about the plover and encourage people to respect exclosures. Information is disseminated through brochures, school presentations, and direct contact with cottage owners adjacent to nesting beaches. Two other guardian programs are active in the prairies, one at Muriel Lake, Alberta and the other at Lake Diefenbaker, Saskatchewan. Management plans were developed for 30 lakes in Alberta during 2003 and 2004 and were distributed to key management individuals. As of 2005, personal visits have been paid to landowners and cottage owners around 27 Piping Plover lakes and livestock/habitat management projects have been completed on 13 lakes in Alberta. Activities included establishment of cooperative agreements to restrict access to nesting beaches, fencing to exclude cattle from shoreline nesting habitat (and provision of alternative water sources for cattle), clearing of beach vegetation, addition of gravel, and installation of cautionary signage. In Saskatchewan, similar habitat enhancement projects have been undertaken. In 2005, five livestock watering systems were put in at Old Wives Lake to reduce cattle disturbance and 89 hectares of cropland conversion was completed at Willow Bunch Lake as part of Piping Plover habitat enhancement projects. The Alberta team has worked with several oil and gas companies in Alberta to ensure that development plans do not disturb plovers or degrade their habitat. This cooperation has been successful, with no known damage to plover habitat or disturbance to nesting birds having occurred as a result of industrial activities. Approximately one quarter of Saskatchewan?s Piping Plovers nest at Lake Diefenbaker. Water levels at this reservoir are usually lowest in early spring and rise until early August. As water levels rise, nests can be flooded and the amount of beach habitat available for chick dispersal may decrease quickly, possibly allowing predators to more easily spot and prey upon young plovers. In 2002, the Canadian Wildlife Service collected 79 Piping Plover eggs from Lake Diefenbaker that were at risk of flooding. The eggs were sent to a captive breeding facility in Nebraska, where 65 chicks survived and were captive-reared until they were able to fly. The young were then released at Chaplin Lake, Saskatchewan. Piping Plover nests were once again threatened with flooding at Lake Diefenbaker in 2005. Eggs were moved above the rising water and when they could not be saved, 276 eggs were collected, incubated, and the young raised in captivity until they could be released back into the wild. In total, 104 plover chicks were released by the Saskatchewan Watershed Authority at Chaplin Lake in 2005. URL

Hinterland Who's Who: Piping Plover: http://www.hww.ca/hww2.asp?pid=1&cid=7&id=61

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Documents

PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

21 record(s) found.

COSEWIC Status Reports

  • COSEWIC Assessment and Status Report on the Piping Plover Charadrius melodus in Canada (2014-10-15)

    The Piping Plover is a small shorebird that is found only in North America. It has a pale, sand-coloured back, short stout bill and orange legs. During the breeding season, it also has a single black band across the breast, another black band across the forehead between the eyes, and a distinctive black tip on the orange bill. There are two subspecies: the interior subspecies breeds on the Canadian prairies, the US Great Plains, and in the Great Lakes region, and the eastern subspecies breeds along the Atlantic Coast of Canada and the US. Over one third of the global breeding population of Piping Plovers is found in Canada, and over one half of the breeding range. Piping Plovers have been the focus of extensive research, conservation and recovery efforts over the last 50 years.

Response Statements

  • Response Statement - Piping Plover circumcinctus subspecies (2015-01-13)

    The interior subspecies of this shorebird is projected to decline over the longer term, particularly if concerted conservation efforts are relaxed. Overall numbers remain low and adult survival has been poor over the last decade. Threats from predation, human disturbance, and declines in habitat extent and quality continue.

Recovery Strategies

  • Recovery Strategy for the Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus circumcinctus) in Canada (2007-07-13)

    The Piping Plover is a migratory bird covered under the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994 and is under the management jurisdiction of the federal government. The Species at Risk Act (SARA, Section 37) requires the competent minister to prepare recovery strategies for listed extirpated, endangered, or threatened species. The Piping Plover was designated as Endangered by COSEWIC in 2001 and officially listed under SARA in June 2003. The Canadian Wildlife Service – Prairie and Northern Region, Environment Canada, led the development of this recovery strategy. The strategy meets SARA requirements in terms of content and process (Sections 39–41).

Action Plans

  • Action Plan for the Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus circumcinctus) in Alberta (2009-10-23)

    The Piping Plover, circumcinctus subspecies, is a migratory bird covered under the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994 and is under the management jurisdiction of the federal government. The Species at Risk Act (SARA, Section 47) requires the competent minister to prepare action plans, based on the recovery strategy, for listed extirpated, endangered, or threatened species. The Piping Plover, circumcinctus subspecies, was designated as Endangered by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) in 2001 and officially listed under SARA in June 2003. In Alberta, the Piping Plover is listed as endangered under Alberta’s Wildlife Act. Alberta Sustainable Resource Development led the development of the Alberta recovery plan for the species in cooperation with the Canadian Wildlife Service – Prairie and Northern Region, Environment Canada and other agencies. Environment Canada has developed additional material to complete the requirements under SARA and other legislations, and to permit the Minister of Environment to adopt Alberta’s document as the Action Plan for the Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus circumcinctus) in Alberta. The action plan meets SARA requirements in terms of content and process (Sections 48 and 49). It is one of four action plans that outline measures required to implement the recovery strategy for the Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus circumcinctus) in Canada. In the spirit of cooperation of the Accord, the Government of Alberta has given permission to the Government of Canada to adopt the Alberta Piping Plover Recovery Plan, 2005-2010 (Appendix 1) as an action plan under Section 51 of the Species at Risk Act (SARA). Environment Canada has included an addition which completes the SARA requirements for this action plan.
  • Action Plan for the Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus circumcinctus) in Ontario (2013-02-08)

    The Species at Risk Act (SARA, Section 47) requires the competent minister to prepare action plans, based on the recovery strategy, for listed extirpated, endangered, or threatened species. The Piping Plover circumcinctus subspecies was listed as endangered under SARA in June 2003 and the recovery strategy was finalized in October 2006. An addendum to the recovery strategy was posted in 2007. Environment Canada led the development of the action plan in partnership with the Parks Canada Agency. This is one of four action plans for the Piping Plover, circumcinctus subspecies. A separate action is being prepared for each province in which the Piping Plover, circumcinctus subspecies occurs. This action plan pertains only to the province of Ontario. This action plan was prepared in cooperation with the Province of Ontario.
  • Action Plan for the Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus circumcinctus) in Saskatchewan (2009-10-23)

    The Piping Plover is a migratory bird covered under the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994 and is under the management jurisdiction of the federal government. The Species at Risk Act (SARA, Section 47) requires the competent minister to prepare action plans, based on the recovery strategy, for listed extirpated, endangered, or threatened species. The Piping Plover circumcinctus subspecies was designated as Endangered by Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) in 2001 (COSEWIC In press) and officially listed under SARA in June 2003. In Saskatchewan, the Piping Plover is listed as endangered in The Wild Species at Risk Regulations under The Wildlife Act (part V). This designation protects the Piping Plover from being disturbed, collected, harvested, captured, killed and exported, and it protects its nest from disturbance and destruction. Although provincial agencies are represented on the Prairie Piping Plover Recovery Team, there currently is no provincial Piping Plover recovery team or implementation group specifically for the province of Saskatchewan. The Canadian Wildlife Service – Prairie and Northern Region, Environment Canada, led the development of this action plan. The proposed action plan meets SARA requirements in terms of content and process (Section 49).
  • Multi-species Action Plan for Point Pelee National Park of Canada and Niagara National Historic Sites of Canada (2016-07-05)

    The Multi-species Action Plan for Point Pelee National Park of Canada and the Niagara National Historic Sites of Canada applies to lands and waters occurring within the boundaries of the two sites: Point Pelee National Park of Canada (PPNP) and the Niagara National Historic Sites of Canada (NNHS). The NNHS is being used as a term to collectively refer to two locations in the Niagara region that consist of three National Historic Sites: Fort George National Historic Site, Battlefield of Fort George National Historic Site, and Butler’s Barracks National Historic Sites of Canada. The plan meets the requirements for action plans set out in the Species At Risk Act (SARA s.47) for species requiring an action plan and that regularly occur in these sites. Measures described in this plan will also provide benefits for other species of conservation concern that regularly occur at PPNP and at NNHS.
  • Multi-species Action Plan for Rouge National Urban Park of Canada (2021-10-07)

    The Multi-species Action Plan for Rouge National Urban Park of Canada applies to all federally owned lands and waters managed by Parks Canada in Rouge National Urban Park (RNUP), including Bead Hill National Historic Site. To the extent possible, it has been prepared in cooperation with Environment and Climate Change Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the province of Ontario, the Rouge National Urban Park First Nations Advisory Circle, and environmental non-government organizations as per section 48(1) of SARA. The plan meets the requirements for action plans set out in the Species at Risk Act (SARA s.47) for species requiring an action plan and that regularly occur at this site. Measures described in this plan will also provide benefits for other species of conservation concern that regularly occur at RNUP. In light of the current Covid-19 pandemic, the 60-day public comment period on the proposed Multi-species Action Plan for Rouge National Urban Park of Canada has been extended to 90 days to provide sufficient time for feedback.
  • Summary of the Action Plan for the Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus circumcinctus) in Manitoba (2009-09-15)

    The Action Plan for the Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus circumcinctus) in Manitoba was due for posting on the Species at Risk (SAR) Public Registry by December 31, 2007, for a 60-day public comment period. A draft action plan has been prepared, but it still requires revisions and consultations with key stakeholders and landowners before posting on the SAR Public Registry. The Province of Manitoba is leading the development of the Action Plan for the Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus circumcinctus) in Manitoba, and Environment Canada will take the lead role in the consultation process in cooperation with Manitoba. Once completed, Environment Canada will adopt the action plan under section 51 of the Species at Risk Act and post it on the SAR Public Registry. Environment Canada will continue to work in cooperation with the Province of Manitoba to ensure the action plan is posted on the SAR Public Registry at the earliest opportunity.

COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report - 2013-2014 (2014-10-15)

    Under Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA), the foremost function of COSEWIC is to "assess the status of each wildlife species considered by COSEWIC to be at risk and, as part of the assessment, identify existing and potential threats to the species". COSEWIC held two Wildlife Species Assessment Meetings in this reporting year (October, 2013 to September, 2014) from November 24 to November 29, 2013 and from April 27 to May 2, 2014. During the current reporting period, COSEWIC assessed the status or reviewed the classification of 56 wildlife species. The wildlife species assessment results for the 2012-2013 reporting period include the following: Extinct: 0 Extirpated: 0 Endangered: 23 Threatened: 12 Special Concern: 20 Data Deficient: 0 Not at Risk: 1 Total: 56 Of the 56 wildlife species examined, COSEWIC reviewed the classification of 40 that had been previously assessed. The review of classification for 25 of those wildlife species resulted in a confirmation of the same status as the previous assessment.

Permits and Related Agreements

Consultation Documents

  • Consultation on Amending the List of Species under the Species at Risk Act : Terrestrial Species - January 2015 (2015-01-13)

    The Government of Canada is committed to preventing the disappearance of wildlife species at risk from our lands. As part of its strategy for realizing that commitment, on June 5, 2003, the Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA). Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species provided for under SARA, also called the List of Wildlife Species at Risk. Extirpated, Endangered and Threatened species on Schedule 1 benefit from the protection of prohibitions and recovery planning requirements under SARA. Special Concern species benefit from its management planning requirements. Schedule 1 has grown from the original 233 to 521 wildlife species at risk. Please submit your comments byApril 15, 2015, for terrestrial species undergoing normal consultationsand byOctober 15, 2015, for terrestrial species undergoing extended consultations.For a description of the consultation paths these species will undergo, please see:Species at Risk Public Registry website

Residence Description

  • Description of Residence for Piping Plover (Charadrius Melodus, Circumcinctus and Melodus Subspecies) in Canada (2005-05-09)

    The following is a description of residence for the Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus -circumcinctus and melodus subspecies), created for the purposes of increasing public awareness and aiding enforcement of the above prohibition. As a migratory bird protected under the MBCA, the Piping Plover is under federal jurisdiction and thus the residence prohibition is in effect on all lands where the species occurs. Piping Plovers are known to have one type of residence - a nest.

Critical Habitat Descriptions in the Canada Gazette

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