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Piping plover chicks expected soon at Cape Henlopen

Gary Cooke


It looks like there could be some chicks on the beach next week. Four pairs of piping plovers are awaiting the birth of baby chicks at the Point in Cape Henlopen State Park.

The shorebird's population numbers are rebounding after nearly three decades of being listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

Piping plovers are small sand-colored shorebirds that run in and out of the surf. They nest in a protected section of beach in Cape Henlopen Park each year between March and September.


The 16 chicks expected to hatch as early as next week will be the first of the season, according to DNREC wildlife biologist Matt Bailey.    



"This year’s numbers are encouraging. They're consistent with what we've been seeing for the past seven years.," Bailey said.  

Plover populations have nearly tripled since they were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1986.

Finding the birds can be an interesting endeavor, according to Bailey. Researchers have learned to look for telltale nesting behaviors in the birds.   

“There’s this thing called the broken wing display. If the birds see us approaching and they have a nest on the ground they will act like they have a broken wing and try to lead us away from the nest because they think we’re predators looking for food. They act as if they are really easy prey items to catch.”


Two more pairs of plovers in the area are showing signs of nesting soon, according to Bailey. 

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