Species Profile

Piping Plover melodus subspecies

Scientific Name: Charadrius melodus melodus
Taxonomy Group: Birds
COSEWIC Range: Quebec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador
COSEWIC Assessment Date and Status Change: November 2013
COSEWIC Status: Endangered
COSEWIC Status Criteria: C2a(i)
COSEWIC Reason for Designation: Numbers of the eastern subspecies of this small shorebird remain extremely low and the population continues to decline, despite concerted conservation efforts. Threats from predation, human disturbance, and declines in habitat extent and quality also 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 melodus subspecies was designated Endangered in May 2001 and 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 melodus subspecies

Piping Plover melodus subspecies Photo 1

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Description

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.

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Distribution and Population

Individuals of the interior subspecies breed in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario (Lake of the Woods and Great Lakes regions), as well as in the Great Plains and Great Lakes regions of the US. Individuals of the eastern subspecies breed in the Gulf of St. Lawrence: on the Magdalen Islands of Quebec and on the coasts of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, and the French islands of Saint Pierre and Miquelon. They are also found along the Atlantic coast beaches of the US. Piping Plovers winter along the Gulf coast of the US and Mexico, southern Atlantic US coast, and the Caribbean, including the Bahamas and Cuba. While there is overlap among breeding populations, most Prairie/Great Plains birds winter along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, most Great Lakes birds on the Atlantic coast and Florida, and most Atlantic breeders on the Atlantic coast and the Caribbean.

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Habitat

Across its breeding range, the Piping Plover nests on wide sandy beaches with little vegetation and a mix of substrates such as pebbles, gravel, shells and sticks. On the prairies, Piping Plovers are most closely associated with alkali lakes, and are also found at reservoirs and freshwater lakes. In the Canadian Great Lakes and at Lake of the Woods, Ontario, Piping Plovers nest on sand and pebble beaches of freshwater dune formations on barrier islands, peninsulas or shorelines of large lakes. On the Atlantic coast, they are associated with sandy beaches on barrier islands, oceanfronts, bays and sand bars. The beaches used by Piping Plovers, on both breeding and wintering grounds, are also of great value to human populations, so habitat has been lost to or degraded by development, resource extraction, recreation and other disturbances.

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Biology

Adult Piping Plovers arrive on breeding grounds in Canada from mid-April to mid-May, often returning to the same nesting area in consecutive years. Nests are made by males, and are simple depressions or scrapes in the sand, often lined with pebbles, shells or driftwood for camouflage. Four eggs are laid, and hatch after about 28 days. Both parents incubate the eggs and tend the chicks. Chicks are able to fly 18–35 days after hatching. Fledging success is highly variable and on average only one to two young per clutch fledge. Subadult survival rates are estimated as 0.53 to 0.57 (but as low as 0.34 in southern Nova Scotia), and estimated adult survival rates range from 0.73 to 0.80.

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Threats

The key threats to Piping Plovers are predation (primarily of eggs and chicks), human disturbance, and habitat loss or degradation. Some natural predators have increased with increasing human presence, and domestic and feral animals also prey on Piping Plovers. Human disturbance has direct effects on Piping Plovers through the destruction of eggs or nests, and several indirect effects such as distracting birds from nesting and feeding activities, and leaving tire tracks on breeding beaches that make feeding more difficult for the plovers and can trap chicks. Human activities, including development, recreation, and resource extraction, reduce the amount and quality of habitat available to the Piping Plover on breeding grounds and wintering grounds. Climate change poses a growing threat, particularly on coastal breeding and wintering grounds, where an increase in severe storms and rising sea levels are expected to reduce the amount of available habitat. Drier conditions and an increase in severe storms pose a threat to habitat and populations on the Prairies as well. Other threats to the Piping Plover include grazing livestock, extreme high tides, hurricanes (during migration and on the wintering grounds), pollution and oil spills.

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Protection

Federal Protection

The Piping Plover melodus 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.

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 melodus) in Canada
Status Final posting on SAR registry

Name Recovery Strategy (Amended) and Action Plan for the Piping Plover melodus subspecies (Charadrius melodus melodus) in Canada
Status First posting on SAR registry

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Recovery Team

Piping Plover melodus subspecies Recovery Team

  • Andrew Boyne - Chair/Contact - Environment Canada
    Phone: 902-426-1900  Fax: 902-426-6434  Send Email
  • Jackie Waddell - Chair/Contact - Conservation organization (NGO)
    Phone: 902-892-7513  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 were created for the two subspecies, which have different ecological and management requirements. The two recovery teams work cooperatively and in conjunction with the two U.S. Piping Plover recovery teams. The long-term objectives for the Piping Plover (melodus) in eastern Canada are to increase the population to 650 adults (325 pairs), evaluate the longer term goal of 800 adults or 400 pairs in conjunction with an assessment of habitat availability, and assess the restoration of the species to areas of suitable habitat from which breeding individuals have been extirpated. The recovery plan guided research and management activities between 2000 and 2005, and an updated recovery strategy is being developed. The priorities of the recovery team have included protecting key nesting areas and associated habitat and conducting research to more clearly identify threats to habitat and test the effectiveness of recovery actions. Much progress has been made and the melodus subspecies of Piping Plover may be stabilizing. Volunteer Guardianship programs are in place to protect nesting Piping Plovers in all five eastern Canadian provinces. These programs have resulted in increased chick survival. Summary of Research/Monitoring Activities Piping Plovers and their reproductive success have been monitored in national parks annually since 1977 and the monitoring program has since expanded over time. Colour-coded leg bands were use to determine important life cycle parameters for the Piping Plover. This provided such useful information as identifying the location and timing of wintering and migration and calculating survival rates of adult and juvenile birds. Unhatched Piping Plover eggs are being examined for developmental problems and tissues analyzed to determine genetic affinities with other populations. In the past, Piping Plovers also have been studied on their Cuban wintering grounds in order to identify their wintering habitat requirements and determine if the plovers face any threats in Cuba. Summary of Recovery Activities Piping Plovers build well-camouflaged nests on beaches; disturbance of nesting birds by humans and their pets is one of the main threats to the species. Therefore, the recovery team has used a combination of education and outreach to reduce human impact on nesting birds. Piping Plover nesting beaches in national parks are closed during the nesting season and predator exclosures are sometimes placed on nests. Predator exclosures significantly reduce nest predation by gulls, crows, raccoons, and other predators. Outside of National Parks, human disturbance is managed on nesting beaches by using string fencing (symbolic fencing) to delineate the sensitive nesting zone and using signs to educate beach users on how to interact with plovers. Motorized vehicle use is restricted on certain dunes, beaches, and wetlands of the Magdalen Islands (Quebec). New Brunswick has implemented 50m buffer zones around nests to protect them from human disturbance. Many beaches outside of parks are ?symbolically? fenced during nesting season, to discourage disturbance of nesting birds. Volunteer-based guardian programs were initiated in 1993 and now operate in all five eastern Canadian provinces. Volunteers patrol nesting beaches that are not protected in National Parks in order to share information about the plover and encourage people to avoid nesting sites. This program has proven successful in reducing human disturbance. Several studies have shown increased chick survival rates where beach guardian efforts have been conducted. Outreach also takes place through audio documentaries (available from Alder Institute: http://alder.nf.ca/) and public service announcements, community guardian workshops, as well as direct contact with landowners. A demonstration predator exclosure for Piping Plovers was displayed at J.T. Cheeseman Provincial Park (Newfoundland and Labrador) in 2005. URLshttp://alder.nf.ca/

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.

44 record(s) found.

Reports on the Progress of Recovery Document Implementation

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 melodus subspecies (2015-01-13)

    Numbers of the eastern subspecies of this small shorebird remain extremely low and the population continues to decline, despite concerted conservation efforts. Threats from predation, human disturbance, and declines in habitat extent and quality also continue.

Recovery Strategies

  • Recovery Strategy (Amended) and Action Plan for the Piping Plover melodus subspecies (Charadrius melodus melodus) in Canada [Proposed] (2021-03-25)

    The Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for the Parks Canada Agency is the competent minister under SARA for the Piping Plover melodus subspecies and has prepared this recovery strategy and action plan, as per sections 37 and 47 of SARA. To the extent possible, it has been prepared in cooperation with the Provinces of Quebec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador. It was developed in cooperation and consultation with the Eastern Canadian Piping Plover Recovery Team, non governmental organizations, Indigenous organizations and other stakeholders as per section 39(1) and 48(1) of SARA. In light of the current Covid-19 pandemic, the 60-day public comment period on the proposed Recovery Strategy (Amended) and Action Plan for the Piping Plover melodus subspecies (Charadrius melodus melodus) in Canada has been extended to 90 days to provide sufficient time for feedback.

Action Plans

  • Action Plan and Recovery Strategy (Amended) for the Piping Plover melodus subspecies (Charadrius melodus melodus) in Canada [Proposed] (2021-03-25)

    The Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for the Parks Canada Agency is the competent minister under SARA for the Piping Plover melodus subspecies and has prepared this recovery strategy and action plan, as per sections 37 and 47 of SARA. To the extent possible, it has been prepared in cooperation with the Provinces of Quebec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador. It was developed in cooperation and consultation with the Eastern Canadian Piping Plover Recovery Team, non governmental organizations, Indigenous organizations and other stakeholders as per section 39(1) and 48(1) of SARA. In light of the current Covid-19 pandemic, the 60-day public comment period on the proposed Recovery Strategy (Amended) and Action Plan for the Piping Plover melodus subspecies (Charadrius melodus melodus) in Canada has been extended to 90 days to provide sufficient time for feedback.
  • Multi-species Action Plan for Gros Morne National Park (2016-03-29)

    The Multi-species Action Plan for Gros Morne National Park of Canada is a SARA action plan (SARA s.47) for Piping Plover (melodus subspecies), American Marten (Newfoundland population), and Red Crossbill (percna subspecies). The plan also outlines measures to monitor and manage 11 other species of conservation concern that regularly occur in the Park. This plan applies only to lands and waters occurring within the boundaries of Gros Morne National Park.
  • Multi-species Action Plan for Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site of Canada (2017-02-07)

    The Multi-species Action Plan for Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site of Canada applies to lands and waters occurring within the boundaries of Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site (KNP and NHS), including Kejimkujik National Park Seaside. 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 within these sites. Measures described in this plan will also provide benefits for other species of conservation concern that regularly occur at KNP and NHS.
  • Multi-species Action Plan for Kouchibouguac National Park of Canada and associated National Historic Sites of Canada (2016-11-22)

    The Multi-species Action Plan for Kouchibouguac National Park of Canada and associated National Historic Sites of Canada applies to lands and waters occurring within the boundaries of the four sites: Kouchibouguac National Park of Canada (KNP) and other land managed by Parks Canada in the Northern New-Brunswick Field Unit offering adequate habitat for the species targeted in this action plan (Fort Beauséjour – Fort Cumberland National Historic Site of Canada (NHS), Beaubassin – Fort Lawrence NHS, Grand-Pré NHS). 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 in KNP and associated NHS.
  • Multi-species Action Plan for Prince Edward Island National Park of Canada (2016-11-22)

    The Multi-species Action Plan for Prince Edward Island National Park of Canada applies to lands and waters occurring within the gazette boundaries of Prince Edward Island National Park (PEINP), as well as, Crown lands located adjacent to the park that are owned and administered by Parks Canada, including Greenwich.. 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 PEINP and on associated federal lands.

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.

Factsheet

  • The Piping Plover in Eastern Canada (2010-02-09)

    The Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus melodus) is a small, migratory shorebird that breeds on the sandy and stony coastal beaches of Eastern Canada between April and August. The Piping Plover establishes territories, lays eggs and raises young on the open beach between the ocean and dunes. Camouflage is the Piping Plover’s main defence. The sand-coloured adults, chicks and eggs are very difficult to see.

Critical Habitat Descriptions in the Canada Gazette

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