Piping Plovers Enjoy Strong Season of Recovery in Maine

Researchers say 125 pairs of piping plovers, endangered in Maine, fledged 213 chicks this year, more than in any other year since they became a protected species in the state

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Piping plovers are experiencing a record recovery in Maine.

This summer, piping plover pairs had more babies that grew up to fly than any other year since the birds, which are endangered in Maine, were protected.

In total, 125 plover pairs fledged 213 chicks, according to researchers at Maine Audubon.

That number is a sharp contrast to the 12 or so pairs of plovers that conservationists started with around 1981.

"We had an incredible year," said Laura Minich Zitske, director of the Coastal Birds Project and a wildlife biologist at Maine Audubon. "We didn't know Maine could have these kinds of numbers."

However, Minich Zitske also pointed out that certain areas contributed more to Maine's numbers this summer than others, with 55 plovers fledged on beaches in Phippsburg.

Other communities, like Saco, Old Orchard Beach and Pine Point, had "very few chicks fledged," she said.

Researchers say dune grass removal and predators like crows and pet dogs continue to threaten plovers, even in Maine and Massachusetts, where concerted conservation successes boost plover numbers and compensate for areas that are not seeing the same results in Canada and the Mid-Atlantic.

"The whole population is reliant on New England numbers," she explained, adding that plovers act similarly to canaries in coal mines in coastal areas.

The more plovers that are seen running around beaches, the better the environment at that beach is.

"What the plovers really need is a healthy beach ecosystem, which is something that benefits all of us," she said.

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