Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus)
Associated Species: Other species that may use habitat in a similar way and/or respond similarly
to threats, management, and conservation activities include Snowy Plover, Killdeer, Spotted
Sandpiper, American Avocet, Black-necked Stilt, and Least Tern.
Distribution: Piping Plovers breed in southern Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba, northern
Montana, North and South Dakota, Nebraska, northern Michigan, and along the Atlantic coast
from Newfoundland to North Carolina. In Physiographic Area 36 in Colorado, they nest only on
reservoirs in the vicinity of the Arkansas River, between Las Animas and Lamar.
Habitat Requirements: These plovers require sandy beaches (mainland or islands) or alkaline
flats with little or no vegetation; nests are located within 250 m (275 yd) of water.
Ecology: Piping Plovers arrive in Colorado in late April, and initiate nesting in early May,
although they may renest after failed nests through July. Most birds have left the state by the end
of September to spend the winter in the southern and southeastern states along the Atlantic and
Management Issues and Conservation Recommendations: Nest site availability and breeding
success are sensitive to water levels, which are subject to management for irrigation and other
uses. Nest depredation hampers productivity, but experimental predator exclosures failed to
improve nest success rates, probably because they did not exclude smaller predators such as
snakes and rodents (Estelle and Mabee 1994, 1995). Area closures can protect known nest sites
from disturbance or destruction by humans and domestic animals; the boundaries of such closures
should be situated at least 150 m (500 ft) from known nests. Attempts to relocate nests away
from rising waters or human activity rarely succeed. Vegetation encroachment into suitable
habitat restricts nesting opportunities; vegetation should be removed from nesting sites by
mechanical means or by flooding outside of the late April to late August nesting season.
Management efforts, including alteration of water management schemes and habitat
manipulation, should follow the guidelines of the state and federal recovery plans (Slater 1994,
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1996).
Status and Reasons for Concern: This species has a high conservation need locally and
throughout its range. The Piping Plover is listed as Threatened at the federal and state (Colorado)
levels. Fewer than 6,000 birds were tallied during an extensive North American breeding census
in 1996; fewer than 20 birds were found in Colorado, and many of them were unpaired males.
Due to its small numbers and limited range, this species is not monitored by the BBS. Results of
the International Piping Plover Census indicated that the continental population increased 7.8%
between 1991 and 1996, although the total population is still perilously low; in Colorado, the
1991 census recorded 19 birds, while the next census in 1996 found 13 birds. This species is
monitored by CDOW and USFWS.
Biological Objective: Increase the species' distribution and abundance, based upon results of
CDOW censuses, the International Piping Plover Census, and other monitoring programs.
Selected References: Andrews and Righter 1992, Haig 1992, Kingery 1998.