Piping Plover Breeding Season Begins
Berlin, Maryland – Superintendent Trish Kicklighter today announced the return of an annual visitor to Assateague Island National Seashore – the Piping Plover. This small, melodious shorebird is threatened with extinction due to the loss of its natural beach breeding habitat along much of the East Coast. Assateague Island is the only Piping Plover nesting site in Maryland and one of the densest breeding areas on the eastern seaboard. The loss of breeding habitat elsewhere in the region means that the protected beaches of Assateague are vital to the species continued survival.
Piping Plover are attracted to the island's isolated, storm washed beaches which provide ideal areas for the threatened bird to nest and feed. The challenge for the National Park Service is to protect the plovers and other natural plant and animal species, while providing high quality recreational opportunities for the park’s many summer visitors.
The Piping Plover breeding season begins in mid-April and lasts until the birds migrate south, usually between early August and early September. Most of the population will use the island’s northern 6 miles in Maryland, and southern areas around Toms Cove Hook in Virginia. A few birds will breed in other areas including the 12 mile public over-sand vehicle (OSV) zone.
Plovers are easily disturbed by humans and will leave their nests or feeding areas if approached. To ensure their safety, the National Park Service will close portions of Assateague Island to visitor use during the breeding season. Visitors should look for the closure signs to avoid entering protected areas where fragile nests may be easily disturbed or destroyed. The closed areas will be monitored and enforced throughout the summer.
The interior portion of northern Assateague Island, including much of the island north of Assateague State Park, will be closed to public use during the entire breeding season. This year’s closure will begin around April 16 and will remain in effect until all young birds can fly. As a reminder, pets and kite flying are prohibited year-round on the north end of Assateague.
A section of bayside beach across from the Ocean City airport will remain open to public boat landing, as will the beaches adjacent to the Ocean City inlet. The inlet beach is also the only area on the Maryland portion of Assateague where personal watercraft are permitted to land. The intertidal ocean beach from the Ocean City Inlet to Assateague State Park will also remain open to the public unless nests are built too close to the ocean to permit recreational activities.
Piping Plovers are also expected to nest along sections of the Park’s OSV zone. Should this occur, the National Park Service may close or limit use in portions of the zone as necessary to protect the nests and any chicks. Staff will re-open any restricted areas for recreational use promptly following the end of the plover breeding activity. Although a shorter OSV zone is possible, a reduction in the 145 vehicle limit is not expected.
- NPS -
Last updated: February 26, 2015