Coastal Waterbird Program

Banded Plover at Barneys Joy Beach, South Dartmouth

Mass Audubon's Coastal Waterbird Program is one of the most effective entities working to protect coastal birds and barrier beaches in North America. Launched in 1986 in response to declining populations of Piping Plovers and terns in Massachusetts, the Coastal Waterbird Program’s primary objective is to protect nesting and foraging areas throughout the state.

In partnership with federal, state, and municipal agencies, and with private landowners, the program has helped to recover the number of Piping Plovers nesting in the state from 135 pairs in 1986 to 680 pairs in 2018—approximately 1/3 of the Atlantic Coast population.

Through managementscience-based conservationpolicy development, and education, the Coastal Waterbird Program protects over 140 miles of coastline annually and manages approximately:

  • 40-50% of the state's Piping Plovers
  • 40% of Massachusetts Least Terns
  • 20% of Massachusetts American Oystercatchers 

The program focuses on protection of the most threatened species of coastal birds, and more broadly, coastal ecosystem management. The Coastal Waterbird Program serves as a model for integrated coastal resource management.

Mass Audubon’s Commitment

Mass Audubon has an extensive history of protecting coastal waterbird populations; waterbird conservation was the impetus for the formation of the organization in 1896. Today, Mass Audubon wildlife sanctuaries throughout southeastern Massachusetts are working to protect coastal waterbirds and habitat in local communities.

Coastal Waterbird Program staff working state-wide to support local efforts is based at Long Pasture Wildlife Sanctuary in Barnstable. Visit our sanctuaries and nature centers in WellfleetNantucketMartha’s VineyardDartmouthMarshfield, and Barnstable to learn more!