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  • Merri-Lee M.

1. Return of the Endangered Piping Plovers

It won't be long now.....

The Piping Plovers that are wintering in the south will soon be returning to our beaches to begin the difficult tasks of selecting nesting sites and raising their young. If they are faithful to their

previous nesting locations, the little Plovers will likely return to Sauble Beach, Wasaga Beach, and possibly Port Elgin and Oliphant.

The male Piping Plovers, with their showy black breastbands and colourful bills, arrive before the females. They feed busily along the shoreline in the post-winter debris. With bellies full of tiny creatures from the sand and water's edge, the males scout the beach for suitable nest locations.

Tiny tracks crisscross the sand as the Plovers move from one pile of debris to the next, searching for a site that will be pleasing to a female Piping Plover. Sites that are slightly elevated are preferred, and bits of driftwood, shells and stones provide necessary camouflage for the nests-to-be.

The Piping Plovers live up to their names as they travel the beach, "piping" as they run. They establish their territories and wait for the female Plovers to return and choose mates and nest sites.

When the females finally do arrive, there is a great deal of competition between the males for the attention of a possible mate. It doesn't take long for the females to make their choices,

and then the rituals begin. Sand flies as scrapes (nests) are created. Each couple argues back and forth about which site will be the best one for raising a family.

Once they have decided on a site,

the female sits in

the scrape, and the male shelters her with his wings.

And then the mating process really gets underway! There is "goose-stepping" by the male, a great deal of piping, fluttering,...

and if all goes as planned, there will soon be an egg in the chosen scrape. Over the course of a week, 3 more eggs will be laid in the nest. By the time eggs are being laid, someone will likely have discovered the nest and alerted the Ministry of Natural Resources. An exclosure will promptly be set up around the nest to deter predators, and an area around the nest will be roped off to allow the Plovers space and privacy to incubate their eggs for the next 26-30 days.

The patient birds take turns sitting on the eggs --there is usually one adult on the nest, and one feeding along the shoreline.

If one parent feels that the other one needs to take a turn egg-sitting, he or she will pipe to call the partner back to the nest!

And hopefully, after nearly a month of waiting and warming, 4 little Piping Plover chicks will make their way out of their shells, and begin their challenging journey to adulthood on the beach....


Check the Featured Posts for updates from the beach in 2016!

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