Illinois Natural History Survey - University of Illinois

Piping plover
Charadrius melodus

 

Taxonomy
Occurence in Illinois
Status
Habitat associations
Guilds
Food-habits
Environmental associations
Life history
Management practices
References


TAXONOMY

 

  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Charadriiformes
  • Family: Charadriidae
  • Genus: Charadrius
  • Species: Charadrius melodius
  • Authority: ORD

Comments on taxonomy:
1957 AOU checklist recognized 2 subspecies, C.m. melodus, which bred along atlantic coast and C.m. circumcinctus, which bred in the interior *16*. 1983 AOU checklist recognizes 1 species (no subspecies) C.m. melodus *12*. Other vernacular see *03,10*.

 


OCCURENCE IN ILLINOIS

Early May-mid May, late July-late Sept. *01*. Status: rare migrant. Very rare summer resident along Lake Michigan *01*. No current nesting sites are known, last being 1973 at Waukegan *13*. Observed during breeding season as late as 1981 at Waukegan *14*.

 


STATUS

Items in bold indicate applicable categories
Forest Service Categories: S = recommended for regional sensitive status, F = forest listed species, M = management indicator species

Federal Status:

Endangered Threatened Proposed for listing
Candidate for proposal Recovery plan approved Recovery plan received (USFWS)
Recovery plan in preparation Under notice of review Delisted
Migratory EPA indicator Forest Serv.- Shawnee species

State Status:

Endangered Threatened Proposed

Other:

Game Furbearer Nongame protected
Sportfish Commercial Pest None of the above

Comments on status:
Present on Illinois endangered species list 1977 *02*. Rebounded from extirpation after full protection from hunting in 1913, see *11*. Very low numbers and vanishing habitat continue its endangered status in Illinois *02*. Also protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, 1918 *15* and Illinois Wildlife Code, 1971 *21*. C. melodus was listed by FWS on 11 Dec. 1985 as endangered in the great lakes area and threatened in rest of its range * *.

 


HABITAT ASSOCIATIONS

Items in bold indicate applicable categories

General habitat:

Unknown Terrestrial Aquatic Riparian

USFS timber inventory forest size class:

Unknown Unstocked Seedling Sapling
Seedling/sapling Pole Mature Over mature

Land use and land cover:

Unknown   Urban Residential
Commercial
Industrial
Transportation, communication
Complex industrial/commercial
Mixed
Other
Agricultural Crop, pasture
Orchards, groves, nurseries
Feedlot
Other
Rangeland Herbaceous
Shrub and brush
Mixed
Forestland Deciduous
Evergreen
Mixed
Water Stream
Lake
Reservoir
Bay
Wetland Forest
Non-forest
Barren Salt flat
Beach
Sand

Rock
Mine
Transit
Mix

 


Forest cover types: No records.

Associated tree species: No records.

National wetland inventory classifications:

SystemSubsystemClassSubclassWater regime modifiersWater chemistry
Lacustrine Littoral Beach/bar Cobble/gravel Permanent nontidal Freshwater
Lacustrine Littoral Beach/bar Sand Permanent nontidal Freshwater
Riverine Lower perennial Beach/bar Cobble/gravel Permanent nontidal Freshwater
Riverine Lower perennial Beach/bar Sand Permanent nontidal Freshwater

Comments on species-habitat associations:
Piping plovers on the great lakes or atlantic coast are associated with fairly wide, sandy, sparsely or unvegetated beaches when nesting *07,08,10,18*. Outside breeding season birds may be found on beaches, lagoon edges or areas of rubble *08*.

Important plant and animal association: No comments.

High value habitats

HabitatStructural stageSeason
Beaches Special habitat Spring/summer
Beaches Special habitat Fall
Sandy areas other then beaches Special habitat Fall
Lake shore Special habitat Spring/summer
Lake shore Special habitat Fall
Beach Special habitat Spring/summer
Beach Special habitat Fall
Foredune Special habitat Spring/summer
Foredune Special habitat Fall

Species-habitat interrelations: Type (sandy beaches) function (breeding, feeding) value (high) season (spring/summer/fall) *01,10,17,18*. Piping plovers on great lakes prefer fairly wide, sandy, sparsely or unvegetated beaches for nesting *18*. In michigan substrate was varying amounts of sand and stone (most 1-10 cm.) *18*. On narrow beaches (approx. 20 m) nest on unvegetated upper beach near dune, on wider beaches between dune and lake *18*. High value potential habitat includes sand or sand-stone beaches at least 9 m. wide (above present water line) that are unvegetated or sparsely vegetated *18*. Sandbars in the Mississippi River may be suitable as those of the Missouri River in Nebr. but no breeding observed *17*. For preferred habitat parameters in Michigan, see *18*.

 


GUILDS

Feed-guilding:

HabitatStructural stageSeasonFeed-guilds
Lake shore Special habitat Fall Terrestrial subsurface- arthropods
Terrestrial subsurface- invertebrates other than arthropods
Terrestrial surface- arthropods
Terrestrial surface- invertebrates other than arthropods
Water bottom-unconsolidated bottom, arthropods
Water bottom-unconsolidated bottom, invertebrates other than zooplankton or arthropods
Lake shore Special habitat Spring/summer Terrestrial subsurface- arthropods
Terrestrial subsurface- invertebrates other than arthropods
Terrestrial surface- arthropods
Terrestrial surface- invertebrates other than arthropods
Water bottom-unconsolidated bottom, arthropods
Water bottom-unconsolidated bottom, invertebrates other than zooplankton or arthropods

Comments on feed-guilding:
Food consists almost entirely of animal organisms which are picked from sands that are washed by flowing water *09,19*.

Breed-guilding:

HabitatStructural stageSeasonBreed-Guilds
Beach Special habitat Spring/summer Terrestrial surface, beaches (mud, sand, rock) without hydrophytes
Foredune Special habitat Spring/summer Terrestrial surface, beaches (mud, sand, rock) without hydrophytes

Comments on breed-guilding:
Copulation occurs anywhere within nesting and feeding territories which are typically fairly wide, sandy, sparsely or unvegetated beaches *06,18*. Nest is a slight hollow or scrape in sand *02*.

 


FOOD-HABITS

Trophic level is CARNIVORE

Food itemLife stage/plant part
Invertebrates Unknown
Annelida (segmented worms) Unknown
Mollusca Unknown
Crustaceans Unknown
Insecta Unknown
Coleoptera (beetles) Unknown
Diptera (flies, midges, mosquitoes) Larva
Important:
Annelida (segmented worms) Unknown
Mollusca Unknown
Crustaceans Unknown
Insecta Unknown
Juvenile:
Invertebrates Unknown
Annelida (segmented worms) Unknown
Mollusca Unknown
Crustaceans Unknown
Insecta Unknown
Adult:
Invertebrates Unknown
Annelida (segmented worms) Unknown
Mollusca Unknown
Crustaceans Unknown
Insecta Unknown
Coleoptera (beetles) Unknown
Diptera (flies, midges, mosquitoes) Larva

Comments on food habits: 
General: Characteristic feeding habit of deliberate movements, run a short distance, pause, stare at sand, etc. *04*. Foods are not well studied but apparently consists almost entirely of animal organisms; insects of various kinds, worms, small crustaceans and mollusks, beetles and fly larvae *04,09*.
Juvenile: Wilcox (1959) reports parents brood but do not feed young *05*. No other mention of parental feeding in literature. Older juveniles are known to gather on neutral feeding areas with adults *06*. Assume juvenile food habits same as adults *00*.
Adult: See comments on general food habits.


ENVIRONMENTAL ASSOCIATIONS

General:

  • Substrate: sand
  • Aquatic habitats: sandy beaches
  • Aquatic habitats: sandbars
  • Aquatic habitats: dunes
  • Aquatic habitats: hind-dune
  • Aquatic habitats: sandy offshore islands
  • Ground cover- herbaceous (%): see comments
  • Vegetation successional stage: sand dune
  • Human associations: state and county parks
  • Human associations: see comments
  • Unknown

Limiting:

  • Aquatic habitats: sandy beaches
  • Ground cover- herbaceous (%): see comments
  • Human associations: state and county parks
  • Human associations: see comments

Egg

  • Unknown

Feeding juvenile:

  • Substrate: sand
  • Aquatic habitats: sandy beaches

Resting juvenile:

  • Substrate: sand
  • Aquatic habitats: sandy beaches
  • Human associations: see comments

Feeding adult:

  • Substrate: sand Aquatic habitats: sandy beaches

Resting adult:

  • Substrate: sand
  • Aquatic habitats: sandy beaches
  • Aquatic habitats: dunes
  • Ground cover- herbaceous (%): see comments

Breeding adult:

  • Substrate: sand
  • Aquatic habitats: sandy beaches
  • Aquatic habitats: dunes
  • Ground cover- herbaceous (%): see comments
  • Vegetation successional stage: sand dune
  • Human associations: state and county parks
  • Human associations: see comments

Comments on environmental associations:
General: Associated with lake shore beaches in Illinois with sandy rather than pebbly texture *02*. Recreational use of beaches is a primary limiting factor. See *07,17,18*. Occupies restricted breeding habitat *04*. See *18* for habitat measurements and parameters.
Feeding juvenile: Assume feeds as adults do. See comments on feeding adult.
Resting juvenile: Assume rest on sand.
Feeding adult: Outside breeding season may feed on beaches, lagoon edges, and areas of rubble *08*. Otherwise feeds on sands washed by flowing water *19*.
Resting adult: Rests and sleeps on dunes and sandy areas at the rear of beach *19*. Also squat on sand and resemble incubating bird *06*.
Breeding adult: See comments on species-habitat interrelations.


LIFE HISTORY

Origin: Native *01,12*.

Physical description: Small sandpiper 6-7 in. long; wingspread 14- 15 1/4 in.; wt. 1 1/2-2 1/4 oz. Breeding adult similar to semipalmated but much paler. Upperparts sandy, matching dry sand of beach; much white on head with narrow black band above forehead extending from eye to eye; white underparts; black ring around neck which may be incomplete, very narrow and complete or wider and complete; orange yellow legs; black-tipped yellow bill. Sexes similar but males appear to have larger bills and broader black band on forehead *05*. Winter has black bill and may be without dark neck ring and band on forehead *03,08,10,20*.

Reproduction: Little information is available for Illinois. No exact breeding season stated but assume approx. mid May-late July *00,01*. Most information comes from Nova Scotia, but biology recognized as same *08*. Upon arrival birds initially feed in areas unclaimed as territories. Males begin spending much time on prospective nesting territory. Male performs aerial displays and calls above territory in ritualized courtship explained in *06*. After series of displays male attracts female to territory where copulation takes place (duration up to 1.5 min.) *06*. Established pairs court and copulate repeatedly before and during egg laying *06*. The nest appears as a deprression or scrape in sand sometimes lined with pebbles or bits of shell *02,03*. Scrapes appeared up to 2 weeks before females selected a scrape to lay eggs *06*. It is unclear which sex made scrapes. Bull (1974) reports clutch size almost invariably 4 (n=500) except when renesting may produce 2-3 egg clutches *11*. Cairns (1982) reports clutches completed in approx. 6 days with laying occurring on alternate days *05,06*. Eggs are gray to pale sand color, sparingly dotted, spotted with purple, black; very cryptic *03*; wt. 9.6 gm. (35) *05* 32.5 + or - 0.955 X 24.8 + or - .05 mm. (215) *06*. Incubation by both sexes *03,05,06*. Apparently starts with 3rd egg layed *05*, lasting 27-31 days, usually 27-28 *03,06,08*. Eggs usually hatch on same day *05*. Hatchlings are precocial and very cryptic. For description see *04*. Young birds leave nest within 2-3 hrs. of hatching *05*. They do not return to the nest but remain within a few hundred feet (4-500 ft. reported by Wilcox 1959). Apparently both adults brood but do not feed young *05*. Brooding sometimes occurs until young are 20 days old *05*. Flight occurs at age 30-35 days *05*. Hatching success reported for Long I. 91.0% with 3.52 young hatched per nest *05*. Nova Scotia reports 75.7 hatching success with 2.98 young hatched/nest *06*. Piping plovers are single brooded but willlay replacement clutch *05,06,10*. Young achieve sexual maturity at 1 year *05*. Max. breeding age unavailable.

Behavior: Piping plover is migratory in Illinois. This species breeds in 2 separate areas of North America to form a coastal and interior population (for details see *07,08,17,18*. Winters chiefly on S. Atlantic and gulf coasts *11*. This species exhibits seasonal monogamy, but may pair with mate of previous year. See *06* for details. Territories are vigorously defended *05*. Nesting and feeding territories are usually contiguous and are maintained throughout breeding season by breeding pairs, non-breeding pairs and individuals *06*. Adults appear to return to same breeding areas yr. After yr. *05,08*. Young don't necessarily return to place of hatching but usually place of 1st successful breeding *05*. Cairns (1982) reports average territory size approx. 4000 m square (500-8000 m square, n= 28) *06*. Nests averaged 52 m. Apart *06*. Wilcox (1959) reported 60 m. or more between nests on Long I. *05*. Closest simultaneous nest were 3 m. Apart *06*. Piping plovers have a characteristic feeding habit. This species is very deliberate in feeding, running a short distance then pausing, staring at sand, then repeating *03*. Also exhibits a bobbing habit as stands around on beach *04*. On the coast, piping plovers apparently move southward soon after nesting activities are over when adults and oldest juveniles flock on neutral feeding areas assoc. with other migrants *06*.

Limiting factors: With population size being so small, the piping plover may be less successful at aquiring a mate *18*. The piping plover had always occupied a restricted habitat in Illinois and began declining with increased recreational use of its habitat, Lake Michigan shoreline, in the 1950's *02*. Human disturbance is probably their primary limiting factor. For details see *07,17,18*. Enemies include house rats, house mice, crows, red fox, opossum, dogs, cats, racoons *05,07*. In Mich. feral dogs are a principle predator, also vehicles run over young and eggs *18*. Storms and high water levels and shore modifications alter shorelines and cause habitat loss *02*.

Population parameters: The population status of Illinois is not stated but assumed down. Relative trends for the great lakes are down *18*. There appears to be no suitable habitat left in Illinois *17* or in other great lakes states othern than Mich. where the species is now threatened *18*. Wilcox (1959) reports that adult mortality is fairly low *05,18*. Cairns and McLaren (1980) report present situation presumably results from failures in productivity rather than increased post-fledging mortality. Habitat change, disturbance of resting birds and direct destruction of eggs and young are possible general causes of reduced reproductive success *07*. Lambert and Ratcliff (1981) report evidence that reproductive success is affected by human activity; Cairns (1982) estimated 1.3-2.1 young/nest fledged as a remote beach and 0.7-1.1 young/nest fledged in an area of recreational use *06,18*. At 1 site on Lake Michigan only 3 out of 10 nests produced young. See *18*. Mortality and survival rates, sex ratio and ave. Lifespan unavailable. Wilcox (1959) reports only 13% of females and 28% of males lived to be 5 years or older *05*. Oldest bird recorded at 14 yrs. old *05*.

 


MANAGEMENT PRACTICES

Beneficial:

  • Maintaining undisturbed/undeveloped areas
  • Maintaining early stage of ecological succession
  • Maintaining natural areas and nature preserves
  • Maintaining unique or special habitat features (wetlands, snags, caves, cliffs, talises, etc.
  • Preserving endangered species habitat
  • Performing special survey prior to prescription
  • Performing field survey prior to prescription
  • Controlling land use and human activities
  • Seasonal restriction of human use of habitats
  • Controlling pollution in aquatic habitats
  • Creating artificial islands or rafts
  • Developing/maintaining lakes and ponds
  • Controlling undesirable vertebrate species (feral dogs, etc.)
  • Restricting human disturbance during migration, breeding, and nesting
  • Changing vegetation to improve wildlife habitat

Adverse:

  • Recreational development
  • Providing public access (develop roads, trails, parking areas or provide legal access)

Comments on management practices:
Recreational use of Lake Michigan shoreline, especially during initial nesting period, may be preventing this species from nesting in Illinois *02*. Also storm erosion of sand beaches during high lake levels, erosion from lake shore currents altered by groin construction cause significant habitat loss *02*. Preservation of nesting habitat and protection from human disturbance while nesting are important to the re-establishment of the piping plover in Illinois *02*. Protection at Illinois Beach State Park came too late *17*. Feral dogs and vehicles were detrimental in Michigan *18*. Piping plover is protected by the Illinois Endangered Species Act 1972 *02* and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, 1918 *15* and the Illinois Wildlife Code, 1971 *21*.

 


REFERENCES

0. MALMBORG, P.L. 1984. ILL. NAT. HIST. SURV., 607 E. PEABODY DR., CHAMPAIGN, ILL. (217)333-6846.

1. BOHLEN, H. 1978. AN ANNOTATED CHECK-LIST OF THE BIRDS OF ILLINOIS. ILLINOIS STATE MUS. POP. SCI. SER., VOL. IX. 156 P.

2. BOWLES, M.L., V.E. DIERSING. J.E. EBINGER AND H.C. SCHULTZ, EDS. 1981. ENDANGERED AND THREATENED VERTEBRATE ANIMALS AND VASCULAR PLANTS OF ILLINOIS. ILLINOIS DEPT. CONSERV. 189 P.

3. TERRES, J. 1980. AUDUBON SOCIETY: ENCYCLOPEDIA OF NORTH AMERICAN BIRDS. ALFRED KNOPF, NEW YORK. 1109 P.

4. TYLER, W.M. 1929. PIPING PLOVER. IN LIFE HISTORIES OF NORTH AMERICAN SHOREBIRDS, ED. A.C. BENT. U.S. NATL. HIST. BULL. NO. 146, PT. 2. WASHINGTON, D.C.

5. WILCOX, L. 1959. A TWENTY YEAR BANDING STUDY OF THE PIPING PLOVER. AUK 76(2):128-152.

6. CAIRNS, W.E. 1982. BIOLOGY AND BEHAVIOR OF BREEDING PIPING PLOVERS. WILSON BULL. 94(4):531-545.

7. CAIRNS, W.E. AND I.A. MCLAREN. 1980. STATUS OF THE PIPING PLOVER ON THE EAST COAST OF NORTH AMERICA. AMERICAN BIRDS 34(2):206-208.

8. JOHNSGARD, P.A. 1981. THE PLOVERS, SANDPIPERS, AND SNIPES OF THE WORLD. UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA PRESS. LINCOLN. 493 P.

9. MARTIN, A., H. ZIM AND A. NELSON. 1951. AMERICAN WILDLIFE AND PLANTS. MCGRAW-HILL BOOK CO., NEW YORK. 500 P.

10. FORBUSH, E.H. 1929. BIRDS OF MASSACHUSETTS, VOL. 1. NORWOOD PRESS, NORWOOD, MA. 481 P.

11. BULL, J. 1974. BIRDS OF NEW YORK STATE. DOUBLEDAY/NATURAL HISTORY PRESS, GARDEN CITY, NEW YORK. 655 P.

12. AMERICAN ORNITHOLOGIST'S UNION. 1980 CHECK-LIST OF NORTH AMERICAN BIRDS. AMERICAN ORNITHOLOGIST'S UNION. ALLEN PRESS, LAWRENCE, KS.

13. FAWKS, E. 1974. FIELD NOTES: APRIL-MAY-JUNE, 1973. ILLINOIS AUDUBON BULL. 167:15-17.

14. KLEEN, V.M. 1982. FIELD NOTES: BREEDING SEASON. ILLINOIS AUDUBON BULL. 199:21-39.

15. U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERV. 1983. CODE OF FEDERAL REGULATIONS. TITLE 50. WILDLIFE AND FISHERIES. CHAP. 1, PP. 11-18. 50CFR10.13. LIST OF MIGRATORY BIRDS. SPEC. PUBL. FEDERAL REGISTER. GENERAL SERV. ADMIN. OCT. 1.

16. AMERICAN ORNITHOLOGIST'S UNION. 1957. CHECK-LIST OF NORTH AMERICAN BIRDS. 5TH ED. AMERICAN ORNITHOLOGIST'S UNION, BALTIMORE. 691 P.

17. RUSSELL, R. 1973. THE EXTIRPATION OF THE PIPING PLOVER AS A BREEDING SPECIES IN ILLINOIS AND INDIANA. ILLINOIS AUDUBON BULL. 165:46-48.

18. LAMBERT, A. AND B. RATCLIFF. 1981. PRESENT STATUS OF THE PIPING PLOVER IN MICHIGAN. JACK-PINE WARBLER 59(2):44-52.

19. ELLIOT, D.G. 1895. NORTH AMERICAN SHORE BIRDS. FRANCIS P. HARPER, NEW YORK. 268 P.

20. PETERSON, R. 1980. A FIELD GUIDE TO THE BIRDS. 4 ED. HOUGHTON-MIFFLIN CO., BOSTON. 384 P.

21. ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF CONSERVATION. 1980. CONSERVATION LAWS. CH. 61. WILDLIFE. ART. II. PAR.2.2. REPRINTED FROM ILLINOIS REVISED STATUTES, 1979. WEST PUBL. CO., ST. PAUL, MN. 120 PP.

22. U.S. DEPT. OF INTERIOR, FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE [USDI]. 1982. EN- DANGERED AND THREATENED WILDLIFE AND PLANTS; REVIEW OF VERTEBRATE WILDLIFE FOR LISTING AS ENDANGERED AND THREATENED SPECEIS. FED. REG. 47(251): 58454-58460.

23. U.S. FISH AND WILDL. SERV. 1986. ENDANGERED SPECIES TECH. BULL. 11(1):3.

 


 

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