What is a Piping Plover?

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  • Written By: Misty Amber Brighton
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 17 December 2019
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A piping plover is a small bird that lives on North American coastlines. The species may spend summers in Canada or the northern U.S., and then migrates to the Gulf of Mexico during winter. It normally has a white chest, gray back and wings, and orange legs and beak. These birds also have a black band around their neck and a black stripe across the top of their head.

This bird is unique to North America, primarily Canada and the United States. It mainly lives on the sandy shores of the Atlantic ocean. Piping plovers may occasionally be found along beaches in the Great Lakes, which are large bodies of fresh water located inland United States. During the winter, they can be found along the Gulf of Mexico, located in the southern U.S. and eastern Mexico.

The chest of a piping plover is normally white or light gray. It usually has a gray back and wings with a black ring around its neck. Males and females of the species are similarly marked, but males have a slightly wider neck band. All adult birds typically have a black mark on the head that runs between the eyes.


A piping plover usually has bright orange legs, feet, and beak. The beak may have a black tip. An adult plover normally stands around seven inches (17.78 cm) high and weighs only 1.5 to 1.7 ounces (43 to 48 g). It typically has a wide wingspan, reaching up to 18 inches (45.72 cm) in some instances.

This bird generally prefers high ground along sandy beaches. It typically chooses a habitat away from high tide waters. The female normally prefers to lay her eggs in a grassy area, if one is available. A male piping plover normally digs out the nest by kicking out sand with his feet. After the female has approved of his work, she may gather sea shells or other debris to camouflage the nest further.

A piping plover is considered to be an endangered species in the Great Lakes region by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Along the Atlantic coast, it is considered to be threatened, or close to becoming endangered. As a result, some beaches in Canada and the U.S. may have protected nesting areas for this bird. People who encounter this animal should take care not to disturb it in order to make sure the species survives for future generations to enjoy.


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