Breeding Bird Atlas 2 Species Accounts
- Local and likely increasing
- Action/monitoring needed
- Threatened Species
The smaller of the two breeding plover species in Massachusetts is also by far the rarer. Tiny and sand colored, the Piping Plover could be tricky to locate in its beach habitat even where it used to be fairly abundant. A widespread decline has made this little shorebird a rallying point for conservation groups up and down the Atlantic coast. Thanks to the efforts of a large number of organizations and private citizens, Piping Plovers are still breeding in Massachusetts today.
Historic StatusThe decline of the Piping Plover as a breeder in Massachusetts has been chronicled through the notations of several of America's great ornithologists. Alexander Wilson and Thomas Nuttall used words like “very abundant” and “common inhabitant” to describe the species during the first four decades of the nineteenth century. Thomas Mayo Brewer noticed the tide turning, however, when in 1884 he reported, “From very many of our most frequented beaches in New England and New Jersey this graceful and attractive species has been entirely driven; and in many others where a few still remain their wildness gives them, in all probability, their only chance for existence,” (Baird et al 1884). At that time hunters were legally and wantonly taking both adults and young, driving the species to near extirpation. Near the beginning of the twentieth century Edward Howe Forbush, then state ornithologist, initiated a stereopticon lecture tour around the state that ultimately led to increased awareness of all species, as well as legal protection for many of them, including the Piping Plover (Forbush 1909). In spite of this effort, the species’ hold on Massachusetts was tenuous.
Atlas 1 DistributionThe beleaguered Piping Plover continued to be under siege from increased predation due to rising gull populations and increased human use of its beach habitats during the 1900s, but by the time of Atlas 1 increased protection of the plover’s sensitive breeding areas was beginning to pay off. Piping Plovers bred at 6 beaches along the Coastal Plains, as well as at 1 site in the Boston Basin. The southern coast of the Bristol/Narragansett Lowlands also hosted a handful of active nesting pairs. Surpassing all of these regions, and accounting for over 80% of all occupied blocks in the state, was Cape Cod and the Islands. Evidence of breeding Piping Plovers in this region was found in 50 blocks throughout the state’s most-visited beach recreation region.
Atlas 2 Distribution and ChangeYears of intensive monitoring, public education, and protection have helped the Piping Plover recover in Massachusetts, and currently this species stands as one of the great Atlantic Coast conservation success stories. Bay State Piping Plovers held their ground in 53 blocks, and expanded into 36 new ones, and it is estimated that Massachusetts now holds an impressive 38% of the east coast breeding population for this species.
Atlas 1 Map
Atlas 2 Map
Atlas Change Map
|Atlas 1||Atlas 2||Change|
|Ecoregion||# Blocks||% Blocks||% of Range||# Blocks||% Blocks||% of Range||Change in # Blocks||Change in % Blocks|
|Marble Valleys/Housatonic Valley||0||0.0||0.0||0||0.0||0.0||0||0.0|
|Lower Berkshire Hills||0||0.0||0.0||0||0.0||0.0||0||0.0|
|Connecticut River Valley||0||0.0||0.0||0||0.0||0.0||0||0.0|
|Lower Worcester Plateau||0||0.0||0.0||0||0.0||0.0||0||0.0|
|S. New England Coastal Plains and Hills||7||2.6||11.3||15||5.3||14.2||5||2.2|
|Bristol and Narragansett Lowlands||4||3.8||6.5||7||6.1||6.6||3||3.0|
|Cape Cod and Islands||50||36.8||80.6||81||56.3||76.4||23||19.2|