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  • Duxbury Beach Reservation

Growing up Plover: Introducing Our Plover Parents (Post 1)

Updated: Jun 25, 2019

Duxbury Beach is a beautiful and treacherous place for a young Piping Plover family. This season we invite you to follow the journeys of three of the plover families here on the beach. See the dedication of the plover parents watching over their eggs, the antics of the tiny chicks as they roam the beach in search of food, and the amazing efforts of flight as the fledglings depart the beach mere weeks into their young lives.

This spring and summer Duxbury Beach Reservation is joined by volunteer wildlife photographer, Stewart Ting Chong, to help celebrate the exciting stories of the Piping Plovers on Duxbury Beach.

The Early Birds

There are a few big milestones with the start of each plover season – first Piping Plover on the beach, first established pair, and first nest found. I think secretly any Piping Plover monitor wants to discover that first small, sand-colored egg of the season. It’s not a simple feat – Duxbury Beach is large, tracking conditions are challenging, and most plover parents don’t start sticking close to the nest until 3-4 eggs are laid. But like clockwork, each year in mid-April the anticipation begins and eyes are peeled.

This year the first nest was discovered April 23 north of the Powder Point Bridge at 2 eggs. This is ideal. Finding a nest before it is complete (usually 4 eggs) means we have a better idea of when it will hatch and can prepare accordingly!

Next post we’ll catch up with the family and their tiny, fluffy additions!

From the front it's not hard to pick out the orange bill but from any other angle the adults are able to blend right in as they sit on the eggs.

Piping Plover stick nearby the chicks but the chicks have to find their own food - luckily they are up an running within a few hours of hatching!

Replicated Habitat Family

Did you know that since 1999 DBR has been creating and experimenting with “replicated” or manmade nesting habitats for Piping Plovers? We’ve learned a lot over the years and continue to work with Mass Wildlife to improve this work.

Maybe you’ve noticed them and maybe not. They’re off the beaten track and that is the point! Nesting habitats are bayside and away from the most recreational activity. This helps beachgoers and plovers coexist and gives the plovers some prime real estate with direct access to bayside foraging areas.

Each season 2-3 pairs of plovers nest at a few of the five habitat areas. This year two pairs of plovers have set up in the replicated habitats. We are going to follow the family set up in Habitat #5 – we’ll find out if they cross the road for some ocean views or stick to the calmer bayside, if they get along with the neighbors in Habitat 3 or if a turf war begins, and more.

The bayside intertidal has great foraging for Piping Plovers.

Both adults are responsible for incubating the eggs. They switch off every so often - incubating and foraging are their primary activities once the eggs are laid.

It's pretty tough to distinguish between mom and dad plover just by looking at them. Usually, dad has a thicker, more complete collar around his neck and more orange on his bill. Who do you think this is?

Pinky & Family

When the piping plovers begin to return each season we typically do not know whether they nested on Duxbury Beach in previous years. They may be able to differentiate one another but it’s pretty tough for us humans – especially since their plumage varies during the year. Sometimes though we get lucky enough to have a banded bird set up on Duxbury Beach.

Bands are small plastic or metal rings, sometimes colored or with letters/numbers to differentiate them from other birds. Researchers put these bands on birds to help them learn more about the migration and nesting patterns, behaviors, and more. Very few Atlantic Coast Piping Plovers are banded so our birds’ backgrounds usually remain a mystery. Fortunately for us, “Pinky” returned to Duxbury Beach again this summer. Pinky and his mate haven’t had the easiest start to the season with the first nest washed out with high high tides in mid-May, but they are back at it with the second nest!

Pinky is checking out Stewart's camera. Look close to see the pink band on Pinky's left leg.

If you see a bird doing this, don't worry - it likely is not hurt. Just watch your feet and move away quickly. "Broken-winging" is what plover parents do to distract and lure away predators or unaware humans from eggs or chicks. Photo taken by a qualified shorebird monitor.

Here's what Pinky was trying to distract the monitor from!

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