PROTECTION STATUS: Endangered in Great Lakes region; threatened in northern Great Plains region and along Atlantic Coast; threatened throughout winter range


CRITICAL HABITAT: 165,211 acres of wintering habitat designated in 2001; 183,422 acres and 1,207.5 river miles in Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota designated in 2002

RECOVERY PLAN: 1988, 1996 (Atlantic Coast population); 1988 (Great Lakes and northern Great Plains populations); 2003 (Great Lakes population)

RANGE: Breeds on the Atlantic Coast and in the Great Lakes and northern Great Plains region; winters in coastal areas of the United States from North Carolina to Texas, along the coast of eastern Mexico, and on Caribbean islands from Barbados to Cuba and the Bahamas

THREATS: General habitat loss and degradation; human disturbance, especially from motorized vehicles; development; increased predation; and disturbance by domestic dogs

POPULATION TREND: The population of the piping plover first plummeted in the late 19th century due to hunting. With the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, the decline caused by these threats was halted and the plover's population increased until 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. Conservation programs enacted after listing have helped the plover, but recovery goals still have not been met. In 2006, the piping plover made the Audubon Society's “top 10 most endangered species” list and censuses estimated that all three plover populations contained a total of fewer than 8,500 breeding adults.

Photo © Sidney Maddock