With over 200 fabulous species of shorebirds around the world, you may be wondering why the Piping Plover was chosen as the World Shorebirds Day “shorebird of the year.” It’s neither the most cosmopolitan nor the rarest. In fact, it’s a North American species that tends to get a lot of attention. However, as a diehard shorebird lover, I’m here to share why this little plover is the ultimate emblem for World Shorebirds Day.
First, this is a species that represents unity despite geographic differences – something we humans are still working on. How? Two Piping Plover subspecies, representing inland and coastal breeding populations in North America (Charadrius melodus circumcinctus and C. m. melodus, respectively), come together in the winter to share space on the shore. Moreover, partners from Canada, US, Mexico and the Caribbean work across borders to survey thousands of kilometers of habitat on both the breeding and wintering grounds every five years during the International Piping Plover Census.
Second, this shorebird has an awesome fan club – a veritable conservation army of “plover lovers” that would be the envy of any shorebird at risk! Finding space to nest, rest or feed on the beach or lakeshore alongside hordes of sunbathers and boaters isn’t easy for a sparrow-sized bird. Yet, if not for a remarkable team of biologists, landowners and citizen scientists from Alberta to Texas and The Bahamas to Newfoundland, the Piping Plover might have been another tragic story of extinction in a biology textbook.
Third, Piping Plovers love beaches and who doesn’t love the beach?
Still need convincing? Just look at a Piping Plover chick and you’ll become a plover lover, too!
Sue Abbott is the Nova Scotia Program Coordinator for Bird Studies Canada (www.birdscanada.org). She coordinates stewardship and monitoring programs focused on breeding Piping Plovers, migrant Semipalmated Sandpipers and Important Bird Areas.