Fire Island Nature
Creatures great and small inhabit Fire Island. Off season they tend to take back their domain…
See the history of the Monarch Butterfly here:
The piping plover (Charadrius melodus), a migratory shorebird that is listed as federally threatened and New York State endangered, nests on Fire Island National Seashore beaches.
The Atlantic coast population of piping plovers breeds from Virginia to Canada. All piping plovers return to the southern Atlantic Coast, Gulf Coast, Bahamas, or West Indies for the winter.
Piping Plovers Blend In
Piping plovers make their nests in the sand along the upper beach and travel to the wrack, or high tide, line and the water’s edge to forage for tiny crabs and other marine invertebrates. Part of this shorebird’s defense against natural predators is camouflage – its sand-colored plumage and eggs blend in with the beach environment.
Their natural camouflage also means that is can be hard for us to see them.
Piping Plover Nesting Season
Piping plover courtship and mating usually occurs from late March through early June on Fire Island. Following courtship, the female bird lays three to four speckled eggs resembling small stones in the nest, a shallow, depression in the sand. Tiny piping plover chicks hatch about 28 days later. Some say piping plover chicks look like “cotton balls on toothpicks.”
For their first four weeks of life, piping plover chicks may wander hundreds of yards from the nest site, usually staying with one or both parents until they fly for the first time. Plovers generally fledge only a single brood per year, but may re-nest if previous nests are lost, or if the chicks are lost within a few days of hatching.
Fire Island National Seashore’s piping plover monitoring and protection program begins in March. The Seashore restricts driving, pets, and kites on portions of ocean beaches to help protect these federally threatened and New York State endangered shorebirds during their nesting season. Find out how you can help protect the piping plover below.
Help Protect the Piping Plover
- Respect fenced areas and stay clear of bird nesting areas. Symbolic, or string, fencing along the upper beach helps protect nesting habitat.
- Where they are permitted, always keep dogs leashed.
- Learn more about Piping Plovers on the North Atlantic Coast
- Take the #FireIslandPledge and help protect all plants and animals, including Threatened and Endangered Species at Fire Island National Seashore.