Giving their parents fits every step of the way, the three piping plover chicks that hatched in the parking lot of Roger Wheeler State Beach yesterday took an overnight, stop-and-start route that finally saw them climb a sand-covered, plywood ramp and skitter onto the beach at about 11 AM today.
After covering a distance that for a person would probably be the equivalent of running a marathon or four, it doesn’t get any easier for the chicks now. Whatever the location of their new nest on the beach, the downy young birds won’t be flying for about a month. They will follow their parents’ lead in foraging for marine worms, crustaceans, and insects – and hopefully surviving human disturbance, unleashed dogs and stray cats, and natural predators such as crows, racoons, skunks, and foxes.
“DEM has been thrilled to help the United States Fish and Wildlife Service give these piping plover chicks a better chance,” said Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) Director Janet Coit. “We hope they survive the days and weeks ahead and one day become the feisty, fascinating shorebirds we sometimes see on the beach; obviously, nature will have the final say. The plovers’ story is encouraging people to learn more about conserving our precious natural habitats – and that is all positive!”
“With nearly 100 pairs of piping plovers in the Ocean State, there’s no way we could ensure safe nesting areas without the partnership of RIDEM and the enthusiasm of volunteers up and down the shoreline,” said Jennifer D. White, Ph.D., United States Fish and Wildlife Services Biologist and Piping Plover Coordinator. “The future of this plover family – and many others – relies upon them.”
DEM is advising beach-goers that the Roger Wheeler State Beach parking lot has been cleaned and again is open to the public. However, the west end of the beach (facing the ocean to the right of the pavilion at the far end of the beach) has been roped off to create a “symbolic fence” within which – biologists hope – the plover family will live. DEM has notified its beach cleaner and this area will not be raked until further notice. DEM will not restrict parking and will incorporate piping plovers into the beach’s youth education program.
US Fish & Wildlife Services’ Tips: How Can You Help the Piping Plover?
- Watch these entertaining birds from a distance. Respect all fenced or posted areas for the protection of wildlife.
- Do not feed animals on or near the beach. Don’t leave or bury trash or food scraps on the beach. Garbage attracts predators – such as skunks, weasels, raccoons, etc. – that may prey upon piping plover eggs or chicks.
- Don’t bring pets to nesting sites. Off-leash play can kill plovers. Keep cats indoors.
- People and wildlife can share the beach. If you keep your distance, you can walk, fish, kayak, read, relax, beachcomb, take photos, splash in the waves, search for sea glass, sunbathe, bike, and watch birds without disturbing them the chicks.
- Volunteer! For more information, visit USFWS’s volunteer page.