Piping Plover

Range Map
Charadrius melodus

Because of habitat loss, the population of Piping Plovers has diminished to a status of “almost threatened”. In 2001, less than 3,000 breeding pairs of Piping Plovers were detected in the U.S. and Canada. Some scientists would classify such low numbers as threatened or endangered. Through aggressive conservation measures, some recent reports show a rebound in population to 8,000 birds, which would be a 30% increase, but most researchers agree that if conservation measures were ended, the population would continue to crash.

There are two distinct populations of Piping Plovers. One breeds inland on the North American prairies, and the other along the Atlantic Seaboard. Taxonomists have debated the validity of the two populations as true subspecies since the mid-twentieth century. Early proponents of the subspecies arrangement argued that breast-band patterns and geographic distribution were ample causes for the subspecies split, but these traits weren’t enough to convince the detractors. More recent DNA analysis seems to have won the day, and now two subspecies are recognised. 

  • C. m. melodus breeds along the Atlantic Coast. 
  • C. m. circumcinctus breeds in the North American prairies and along the shores of the Great Lakes.

My visit to South Padre Island in the fall of 2022 provided me with meetings with these birds on Gulf Coast beaches where they spend their winter months.

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