Piping Plovers on Fire Island

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

The piping plover (Charadrius melodus), a migratory shorebird that is listed as federally threatened and New York State endangered, 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 Plovers Blend In

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

Piping Plover Nesting Season

Piping plover courtship and mating usually occurs from late March through early June on Fire Island. Following courtship, the female bird lays three to four speckled eggs resembling small stones in the nest, a shallow, depression in the sand. Tiny piping plover chicks hatch about 28 days later. Some say piping plover chicks look like "cotton balls on toothpicks."

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.


Fire Island National Seashore's piping plover monitoring and protection program begins in March. The Seashore restricts driving, pets, and kites on portions of ocean beaches to help protect these federally threatened and New York State endangered shorebirds during their nesting season. Find out how you can help protect the piping plover below.

Help Protect the Piping Plover

Last updated: May 17, 2017

Park footer

Contact Info

Mailing Address:

120 Laurel Street
Patchogue, NY 11772



Contact Us