Piping Plovers on Fire Island

A small stocky shorebird, the Piping Plover, stands on the beach by the water

Two federally listed threatened and endangered bird species are known to nest within Fire Island National Seashore. One is the piping plover (Charadrius melodus), a migratory shorebird that is listed as federally threatened and New York State endangered.

The piping plover, a stocky sand-colored shorebird, nests on Fire Island National Seashore beaches. The Atlantic coast population of piping plovers breeds from Virginia to Canada. All piping plovers return to the southern Atlantic Coast, Gulf Coast, Bahamas, or West Indies for the winter.


Piping Plover Biology

Piping plover courtship and mating usually occurs from late March through early June. Following courtship, the female bird lays three to four speckled eggs resembling small pebbles in a shallow scraped depression in the sand. Tiny piping plover chicks hatch about 28 days later.

For their first four weeks of life, piping plover chicks may wander hundreds of yards from the nest site, usually staying with one or both parents until they fly for the first time. Plovers generally fledge only a single brood per year, but may re-nest if previous nests are lost, or if the chicks are lost within a few days of hatching.

Piping Plovers Blend In

Piping plovers nest on the sand and travel to the wrack line, or high tide line, and the water's edge to forage for tiny crabs and other marine invertebrates. Part of this stocky shorebird's defense against natural predators is camouflage - its sand-colored plumage and eggs blend in with the beach environment. This also means that is can be hard for us to see them.


Fire Island National Seashore's piping plover monitoring and protection program begins in March with a restriction on driving, pets, and kites on portions of the beach.

You Can Help

  • Respect fenced areas and stay clear of bird nesting areas.
  • Where they are permitted, always keep dogs leashed.
    See Pets on the Beach for current restrictions

Learn More

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Mailing Address:

120 Laurel Street
Patchogue, NY 11772


(631) 687-4750
Monday through Friday, 9:00 am to 4:00 pm. Closed on federal holidays.

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