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Endangered piping plover population continues growth in Delaware

Kevin Bronson
Piping Plover

Data from the state’s Division of Fish and Wildlife shows piping plovers continued making a healthy comeback this year.

The small sand-colored, beach-nesting bird has been on the endangered species list since 1986.

An all-time high 16 breeding pairs of piping plovers produced 36 fledglings this nesting season in Delaware. 12 of the pairs nested at Fowler Beach at Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge. Fowler Beach first became a habitat for piping plovers in 2016 after a restoration project.

Delaware’s Avian Conservation Project Manager Audrey DeRose-Wilson credits that project with the new success of the bird’s population.

“So that’s what really made the difference in our numbers,” said Derose-Wilson. “And we’ve had piping plovers at that site since 2016, but the numbers have increased each year.”

Derose-Wilson says the piping plover is highly dependent on state management, and its population in the First State has more than doubled since being placed on the endangered list.

In addition to habitat restoration, the state also uses wire cages to protect plover nests from predators and has killed off foxes in areas near piping plover nests.

DeRose-Wilson says there is also a network of volunteers working to keep beach-goers from disturbing piping plover nests.

“These people talk to the public and they can show pictures of piping plovers and chicks and sometimes they have spotting scopes or binoculars and if the birds are close to the fence they can point them out,” said Derose-Wilson.

Delaware’s other rare beach-nesting birds had less success this year.

Only one pair of American oystercatchers successfully hatched and fledged a single chick, and no least terns were found nesting in Delaware for the first time since the state began monitoring least terns in 2006.

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