Help protect endangered piping plovers | Local News
CONCORD – The public is once again being called upon to help protect endangered birds on state beaches. The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department reports that there are a record thirteen pairs of piping plovers nesting along the sandy shores of Hampton and Seabrook beaches. Piping plovers are endangered in New Hampshire and threatened nationally. Their breeding habitat has been demarcated with yellow ropes to demonstrate the presence of the birds to beachgoers and to allow mating pairs enough space to nest and raise their young. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Piping Plover population monitoring in New Hampshire by the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department.
“Our goal is to protect these rare birds during their breeding season and to manage the beaches for humans and wildlife,” said Brendan Clifford, biologist with NH Fish and Game’s Nongame and Endangered Wildlife program, who oversees the effort to piping plover protection. “This year we expect the first nests to hatch in early June,” Clifford said.
Within hours of hatching, piping plover chicks are able to walk and feed on their own. The first few weeks after hatching are the most crucial, as the chicks are very small and difficult to see and extremely vulnerable to natural predators such as gulls, crows, foxes and pets, including cats and dogs. .
Humans are another threat. “We’ve had occasional incidents where people have deliberately vandalized fences meant to protect birds and even stolen eggs right out of the nest,” Clifford said. “We continue to educate people in the hope of minimizing human disruption. Birds are generally able to fly between 25 and 30 days, when they are considered to have fledged.
NH Fish and Game is once again working closely with beach managers this year to coordinate beach sweeping and plover protection. Beach maintenance can take place as long as it is coordinated in advance with NH Fish and Game and does not pose a threat to piping plovers.
The protection of this endangered species is a cooperative effort of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, NH Fish and Game Department, NH Division of Parks and Recreation, Town of Seabrook, Town of Hampton, volunteers, local residents and beach visitors.
Beach goers can make a big difference in whether or not piping plover chicks survive to fledging age. Here’s how you can help:
Watch Where You Step – A plover chick’s defense mechanism is to freeze when people approach, making it difficult to see. The chicks are about the size of a cotton ball and are light in color, so they blend in with the sand.
Leave Your Dog – Free range dogs can accidentally step on them and crush eggs and chase adult chicks and plovers. Hampton Beach State Park and the Town of Seabrook both have dog restrictions on beaches during the summer. People should check before bringing their dog to a public beach.
Fill in the Holes – Holes in the sand are traps for little chicks that cannot fly. Filling in the holes on the beach helps the chicks move around and find the food they need to grow strong and able to fly.
Volunteering – Volunteers will be needed to help with monitoring once the plover chicks begin to hatch in early June. Anyone interested in volunteering can contact Brendan Clifford of the NH Fish and Game Department at 603-271-0463.
From 1997, when protection efforts began in New Hampshire, until 2020, 145 breeding plover pairs flown 184 chicks on the state coast. New Hampshire’s efforts are part of a regional protection program; overall, the Atlantic Coast Piping Plover population is currently known to be just under 2000 pairs.
Thanks to the dedicated conservation efforts of many partners and the cooperation of beach goers, the Piping Plover has more than doubled its population along the Atlantic coast since being listed as threatened under the Species Act. endangered in 1986. Decades of efforts by federal, state, city and private landowners, organizations and agencies at all levels of government have contributed to significant progress in providing plovers with places safe to raise their families.
For more information on piping plovers in New Hampshire, visit www.wildnh.com/nongame/project-plover.html.
The piping plover protection effort is coordinated by Fish and Game’s Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Program. Visit www.wildnh.com/nongame.