Wednesday 17 July 2013

Species spotlight - Piping Plover.

Piping Plover Charadrius melodus: Wader Quest species number 59 first seen at Crandon Park, Florida 30th November 2012. 

Piping Plovers on Crandon Park Beach, Florida, USA. November 2012. 
The story of this species is encouraging, the population is actually recovereing albeit very slowly after a phenomenal crash. Breeding surveys show that both populations are increasing slightly. For this reason it is placed in the category of Near Threatened whilst this trend continues along with the conservation measures put in place.

Adult breeding Piping Plover - Charadrius melodus: Connecticut, USA, May 2012.

This species breeds in two main populations, one along the Atlantic coast and the other on the prairies and great plains of the USA and Canada. There are also three small disjunct populations in the Great Lakes region. They can be found wintering along the Atlantic coast of the USA from the Carolinas south to Florida and around the Gulf of Mexico in the USA and sporadically in Mexico itself.

Adult non-breeding Piping Plover. Ringed as a chick Lake Sakakawea, North Dakota, USA.
Photographed by Elis Simpson at Crandon Park Beach, Florida November 2012.
This bird is not out of the woods by any means, the population is artificially maintained by an intensive protection programme, the main threats of pollution, beach disturbance and predation by cats and dogs, among others animals, have not gone away.

Adult non-breeding Piping Plover. Hatched Ludlington State Park, Michigan, USA.
Photographed by Elis Simpson at Crandon Park Beach, Florida November 2012.
Adult non-breeding Piping Plover. Ringed as a chick 2011 North End, Nebraska, USA.
Photographed Bunche Beach Florida December 2012.
Some of you may have seen this amusing story before, but it is worth telling again. It is the story of 'Rocky'.

'Rocky' the Piping Plover with dozing Western Sandpiper.
In his first breeding year in Michigan this individual paired up and his dutiful female created a scrape nest in which she deposited four eggs. 'Rocky' wasn't quite up to the task of rearing young it seemed. He created a second scrape beside that of his female. In this scrape he placed four egg-shaped rocks. When it came to change over for incubation 'Rocky' incubated his rocks while the female incubated the eggs. Needless to say the clutch was not successful having only one parent incubating.

The following year the female again produced a scrape with four eggs, this time, 'Rocky' didn't create a second scrape, but he couldn't resist adding an egg-shaped rock to the eggs. This time both birds incubated the eggs, and the rock! The result was that the eggs hatched successfully, the rock did not!

Rocky's nest. Thanks to Alice Van Zoeren for the use of the photo.
Since those first two years Rocky has forgotten about the stones and has become an exemplary father.

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