SIB “Bird of the Week” – Piping Plover

Piping Plover –  Charadrius melodus
Length:  7.25″; Wingspan: 19″; Weight: 1.9 oz.

Piping Plover - North Beach, Seabrook Island - Ed Konrad
Piping Plover – North Beach, Seabrook Island – Ed Konrad

The Piping Plover is a small shorebird that has gotten a lot of attention at Seabrook. It doesn’t nest here, but Seabrook is an important stop for it in migration to feed. It’s feeding habitat has seriously declined since many coastal beaches have been lost to commercial, residential and recreational activities. This is one of the main reasons that the end of North Beach is protected from dogs. On our beach, it feeds on insects, spiders, crustaceans and mollusks. If you watch it carefully for a while, you will see it do a funny tapping with its foot as it looks for food. This is an interesting feeding ploy…tapping it’s foot against the sand to get prey to come to the surface so it is easier to see and capture. The Northern Great Plains plovers are classified as endangered and the Atlantic coast Piping Plovers are threatened by USFWS.

The Piping Plover is a small, stocky (6-7″ long) shorebird that nests and feeds along coastal sand and gravel beaches in North America. It is named for it’s melodic mating call. It is pale, sand colored on it’s upper parts, with white underparts and a black or brown band around it’s neck. It’s legs are yellowish orange and in breeding, the adults have a black forehead, black breast band and orange bill. The female lays 4 eggs in a nest lined with pebbles and broken shells. Both male and female care for the eggs, and chicks can run around and feed themselves in hours. These birds never nest on Seabrook, they only stop here in migration.

When you see the Piping Plovers, they are usually in small numbers, often mixed in with a large group of Semipalmated Plovers. They stand out because they are very white. This past spring, we saw a high count of 9 Piping Plovers on Seabrook, which was very exciting and somewhat rare! And recently we had the first banded Piping Plovers from the Bahamas (where they winter), seen in SC. So keep your eyes out for our small visitor, often wearing a lot of “bling” (multi-colored bands)!

If you would like to learn more about this bird visit:

Article submitted by:  Aija Konrad
Photographs provided by:  Ed Konrad

resubmitted by SIB

This blog post is part of a series SIB will publish on a regular basis to feature birds seen in the area, both migratory and permanent residents.  When possible we will use photographs taken by our members.    Please let us know if you have any special requests of birds you would like to learn more about.

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