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Atlantic piping plover

The Atlantic piping plover (Charadrius melodus) breeds on Atlantic coastal beaches from Newfoundland to northernmost South Carolina [1]. Hunters and the millinery trade decimated the population in the late 19th and early 20th century, but were stopped by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. The plover steadily recovered up to about 1950, then began to decline again under pressure from development, beach stabilization programs, increased recreation, and human-caused ecosystem changes which increased predation by native and introduced species.

Following its listing as an endangered species in 1985, the plover was subject to ntensive nest site, nest area, and predator management programs [1]. The U.S. population increased from 550 pairs in 1986 [1] to about 1,423 pairs in 2004, with 659 pairs in New England, 519 in NY-NJ, and 245 in the Southern region [4].

The 1996 federal recovery plan [1] established the following delisting criteria: 1) Increase and maintain for five years a total of 2,000 breeding pairs, distributed among four recovery units as follows: Atlantic Canada, 400 pairs; New England, 625 pairs; New York-New Jersey, 575 pairs; Southern (DE-MD-VA-NC), 400 pairs. 2) Verify the adequacy of a 2,000-pair population of piping plovers to maintain heterozygosity and allelic diversity over the long term. 3) Achieve five-year average productivity of 1.5 fledged chicks per pair in each of the four recovery units described in criterion 1, based on data from sites that collectively support at least 90% of the recovery unit’s population. 4) Institute long-term agreements to assure protection and management sufficient to maintain the population targets and average productivity in each recovery unit. 5) Ensure long-term maintenance of wintering habitat, sufficient in quantity, quality, and distribution to maintain survival rates for a 2,000-pair population.

The New England region met or nearly met its nesting pair goal of 625 pairs in 1998 and in each of the seven following years [2, 3, 4]. The preliminary estimate for 2005 is 630 pairs. The New York-New Jersey region is progressing toward, but has not yet reached its goal of 575 pairs. Populations in the Southern region are growing, but not as rapidly; the 2004 total of 245 pairs was well below the goal of 400. Canada was the only population not to have grown since 1986. It remains at 245 pairs in 2004 (240 in 1986), while its recovery goal is 400.

[1] U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 1996. Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus), Atlantic Coast Population, Revised Recovery Plan. Hadley, Massachusetts. 258 pp.
[2] U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 2004. 2002-2003 Status Update: U.S. Atlantic Coast Piping Plover Population, (www.fws.gov/northeast/pipingplover/status/index.html accessed 1/13/06)
[3] U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 2005. Preliminary 2004 Atlantic Coast Piping Plover Abundance and Productivity Estimates.
[4] Center for Biological Diversity. 2006. Preliminary 2005 Atlantic piping plover counts. Tucson, AZ.

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