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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Piping Plover -- Charadrius melodus

RANGE: Breeds locally from south-central Alberta to south-central Manitoba, south to eastern Montana and central and eastern Nebraska; in the Great Lakes region from northern Michigan and southern Ontario south to the southern shores of Lake Michigan and Lake Ontario; and in coastal areas from Newfoundland south to Virginia. Winters on the coast from South Carolina south to Florida and west to eastern Texas, sparsely in Bahamas and Greater Antilles.

STATUS: Endangered; numbers are slowly declining.

HABITAT: Inhabits exposed, sparsely vegetated sandy shores and islands of shallow lakes and ponds, dry sandy ocean beaches, higher portions of strand near dunes, and large open sandy areas, especially where scattered grass tufts are present. In winter it is found on beaches, margins of lagoons, and areas of rubble.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Unspoiled, undeveloped beaches with little vegetation.

NEST: Nests in a hollow in sand, well beyond high tide on ocean beaches, on raised sandspits, or on the lower slopes of dunes. Generally nests on narrow beaches as little as 6 feet wide. May sometimes nest under tufts of grass. Adults tend to return to the same breeding area year after year.

FOOD: Forages on beaches, along margins of watercourses, and on tidal sandflats for marine worms, insects such as fly larvae and beetles, crustaceans, and mollusks.

REFERENCES: Bent 1929, Cairnes 1982, DeGraff et al. 1980, Harrison 1979, Palmer 1967, Tate and Tate 1982, Terres 1980, Wilcox 1959.

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