More Park Facilities Reopen During May 2013
Watch Hill and Sailors Haven marinas open May 10. Limited ferry service from Sayville to Sailors Haven resumes May 13 and ferries from Patchogue to Watch Hill start on May 18. Remaining park facilities to reopen by May 25, 2013. More »
Piping Plover Monitoring and Management at Fire Island National Seashore
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Two federally listed threatened and endangered (T & E) bird species have been known to nest within Fire Island National Seashore. The most notable is the piping plover (Charadrius melodus), a stocky little migratory shorebird that is on the federal threatened and New York State endangered species list. Fire Island's relatively natural and uncrowded beaches provide critical habitat for the survival of this species.
This inconspicuous shorebird nests only in North America, with three distinct populations.
The federally threatened Atlantic coast population of the piping plover breeds on Atlantic Coast beaches from Virginia to Canada.
The federally endangered Great Lakes population and federally threatened Great Plains population breed in suitable habitat in the northern mid-western states and parts of Canada.
All piping plovers return to the south Atlantic Coast, Gulf Coast, Bahamas or West Indies for the winter.
Fire Island National Seashore's annual piping plover monitoring and protection program begins in March with a restriction on driving, pets and kites on portions of the beach.
Piping plover courtship and mating usually occurs on Fire Island from late March through early June. Plovers generally fledge only a single brood per year, but may renest several times if previous nests are lost, or if the chicks are lost within a few days of hatching.
As nests are established, exclosures are constructed to protect the nest and eggs.
Care must be taken to work quickly, so that the embryos in the eggs are not harmed by the heat of the sun, and the adults are not disturbed to the point of abandoning the nest.
Fire Island's plover chicks usually hatch between late April and mid-July. Once hatched, chicks are very vulnerable and park monitoring and management efforts continue.
For their first four weeks of life, plover chicks may walk hundreds of yards from the nest site, and away from the symbolical fenced area as they forage in the intertidal beach areas. They usually stay near one or both parents until they fledge. Fire Island plover chicks may fledge between late May and mid-August.
Throughout the summer, further measures are enacted to protect endangered and threatened species. Portions of Fire Island's beaches remain closed to pets. Kites are also prohibited in these areas, since nesting shorebirds may mistake a kite for a hovering bird of prey and abandon their nests.
By mid-August, most piping plover nesting activity has ceased on Fire Island and the birds fly south for the winter.
After the chicks have fledged, restrictions on pets and kites are lifted, but the symbolic fencing is left in place for the protection of seabeach amaranth (Amaranthus pumilus) and seabeach knotweed (Polygonum glaucum) plants.
As a condition under which the 2008-09 beach nourishment projects were authorized for Fire Island, portions of the nourished beach in front of the participating Fire Island communities are symbolically fenced from early April through the first of July. If no plovers are nesting in these sections by July 1, the depth of the restricted beach area will be reduced. However, symbolic fencing will remain in place throughout the summer to provide protection for protected (T & E) plant species.
While American beach grass (Ammophilla breviligulata) is not a protected species, it benefits from the protection measures afforded the other species. Beach grass rhizomes and rootlets are able to develop where they are protected from trampling feet and vehicle traffic.
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Did You Know?
Lifeguarded beaches are provided at Fire Island National Seashore during the summer at Watch Hill and Sailors Haven. More...