Coastal Waterbird Program

Piping Plover adult on nest with chick © Pat Ulrich
Piping Plover adult & chick © Pat Ulrich

CWP HomeWildlife Management • Conservation • Policy DevelopmentEducation

Working to protect nesting and foraging areas for coastal birds throughout Massachusetts.

Mass Audubon's Coastal Waterbird Program (CWP) is one of the most effective entities working to protect coastal birds and barrier beaches in North America. The CWP was first launched in 1986 in response to declining populations of Piping Plovers and terns in Massachusetts. 

In partnership with federal, state, and municipal agencies (along with private landowners), the program helped to recover the number of nesting Piping Plovers in the state from 135 pairs in 1986 to 805 pairs in 2020—approximately 45% of the entire Atlantic Coast population.

Program Overview

The CWP currently protects over 140 miles of Massachusetts coastline each year. Through a combination of wildlife management, science-based conservation, policy development, and education initiatives, the program is manages the conservation of approximately:

  • 30-40% of the state's Piping Plovers
  • 40-50% of the state's Least Terns
  • 20-30% of the state's American Oystercatchers 

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

2020 Season Report 

In 2020, Mass Audubon's Coastal Waterbird Program protected threatened coastal birds through management and education at 182 sites along 136 miles of coastline. Read the field highlights >

Our Commitment

Mass Audubon has an extensive history of protecting coastal waterbird populations. In fact, 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 are based at Long Pasture Wildlife Sanctuary in Barnstable. Visit our sanctuaries and nature centers in WellfleetNantucketMartha's VineyardDartmouthMarshfield, and Barnstable to learn more!