Mass Audubon, the Massachusetts chapter of the National Audubon Society in the U.S.A, announced on November 14th a new record for Piping Plover Charadrius melodus nests, currently estimated at 1,145 nesting pairs – the highest since records began in 1986. This represents a more than 500% increase from when conservation efforts began, at an estimated 135 pairs recorded, and a more than 10% increase from 2022, when there were an estimated 1,033 nesting pairs.
The birds also returned to beaches that hadn’t seen nests in years, a success story attributed to Mass Audubon’s Coastal Waterbird Program (CWP), which uses fencing, signage, nest exclosures and land use agreements with local stakeholders to protect nesting and breeding birds. Massachusetts is believed to house around 50% of the Atlantic Coast population of Piping Plovers.
The subspecies found in Massachusetts, C. m. melodus, is listed as threatened by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and internationally the bird is listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN redlist.
Mass Audubon’s CWP was originally established to protect Piping Plovers (which were included in the Endangered Species Act in the same year), but also protects other coastal birds. American Oystercatchers Haematopus palliatus saw an estimated population increase of 12% from 2022, while Least Terns Sternula antillarum saw a mild decline of around 3%.