People passionate about nature

Piping Plover

Above: Piping Plover by Christian Artuso

How do I recognize it?

A pale, small and stocky Killdeer describes the Piping Plover. It is similar in size to our smallest sandpipers, with sandy-coloured upperparts, white underparts and bright yellow legs. Adults in breeding plumage have a narrow black neck-breast band and a small band of black on the crown. Compared to other shorebirds, plovers, including this species, have very short beaks.


Does it migrate?

Birds arrive on the breeding grounds in early May and depart by August or September. They winter along the southern Atlantic coast of the U.S. and along the Gulf coast as far south as Mexico.

Above: Brooding Piping Plover by Christian Artuso

Where does it live?

Piping Plovers are partial to wide sandy beaches, which brings them into conflict with beach-goers and ATV drivers. They are also susceptible to nest loss to to fluctuating water levels. There are two primary populations; one at lakes on the Canadian and United States prairies and the other along the Atlantic coast of the continent. Small numbers are found along the Great Lakes.


Where can I see it?

Unfortunately for Manitobans, the chance of seeing a Piping Plover in the province is slim nowadays, with the population almost extirpated. Not many years ago, it nested at Grand Beach, St. Ambroise and similar sandy beaches. Your best bet would be to visit the Gulf Coast, where hot-spots such as Bolivar Flats still host wintering birds.

Above: Piping Plover by Christian Artuso

Conservation Status.:

Although the overall population in North America is considered Near-Threatened, the situation in Canada as a whole and Manitoba in particular is considerably more dire, resulting in listing the species as Endangered.


Did you know?

Not many years ago a few of the last nests in Manitoba were situated on a large sandy parking lot at Grand Beach. Here they were well-protected by fences and volunteer guardians. Prior to that, in the 1980s, Piping Plovers attempted to breed on Oak Hammock Marsh’s main parking lot.

Above: Piping Plover with juvenile by Christian Artuso