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Piping Plover

Populations of the Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus) have declined across much of North America in recent years, and the species is now considered to be endangered or threatened in all areas of its breeding and wintering range within the United States and Canada. The species is currently designated as being endangered under the Alberta Wildlife Act.

In Alberta, and elsewhere on the Great Plains, the Piping Plover inhabits shorelines and islands of large alkaline lakes. Nesting typically occurs on gravel substrates in areas with relatively wide, sparsely-vegetated beaches.

Piping Plovers arrive on the breeding grounds in Alberta in late April. Males establish territories that average about 3 hectares in size and most first nests are initiated in early May, but eggs have been reported as early as 30 April in this province. Renesting occurs if loss of the first nest occurs before mid-June, with the latest clutch initiation for Alberta being in early July. The Piping Plover is a ground nester, and well-concealed eggs are laid in a shallow scrape lined with small pebbles. Clutches of four eggs are the norm, although three-egg clutches are common, and five-egg clutches have been reported. Males and females share in incubation of the eggs, which spans 26 to 28 days. The young leave the nest within several hours of hatching, and are capable of sustained flight at about 28 days of age. Reproductive success is highly variable between lakes, and between years across the breeding range of the Piping Plover.

Most birds leave the Canadian prairies for wintering grounds along the Gulf Coast of the United States, Mexico and the Caribbean by the end of the first week in August. Birds have been known to disperse up to 1,500 kilometres from one breeding season to the next. A single bird attained an age of 14 years.

Piping Plover

Piping Plover

Piping Plover

Piping Plover