Species At Risk

Piping Plover

(Charadrius melodus)


Piping Plover
Piping Plover occurrences map


The Piping Plover is a small shorebird that is well-camouflaged on the pale sand beaches it favours. Its stubby bill is orange with a black tip and its legs are bright orange. Its belly is white but the back, wings and most of the tail are the colour of dry sand. Adults have a bold black breast band and a smaller black band above their white forehead.

Action we are taking:


In North America, the Piping Plover primarily breeds along the Atlantic coast, the western Great Lakes and along wetlands, rivers and lakes in the northern Great Plains. In Ontario, although never common, they breed along the shores of the Great Lakes, and at Lake of the Woods in northwestern Ontario.


Piping Plovers nest exclusively on dry sandy or gravelly beaches just above the reach of high water and waves. When not migrating, this bird spends virtually all of its time between the water’s edge and the back of the beach. It pecks the sand and searches small pools of water for food - mostly insects and small crustaceans.


The main threat to the Piping Plover is human disturbance, since the sandy beaches where plovers live are also popular for human recreation which can destroy nests. Groomed beaches lack natural hiding places, making eggs and chicks vulnerable to predators such as foxes, cats, raccoons and gulls. Storm surges and severe weather can also destroy nests and harm chicks.


The Piping Plover and its habitat are protected under Ontario’s Endangered Species Act.

What You Can Do to Help the Piping Plover

  • The Ministry of Natural Resources tracks species at risk such as the Piping Plover. You can use a handy online form to report your sightings to the Natural Heritage Information Centre. Photographs with specific locations or mapping coordinates are always helpful. nhic.mnr.gov.on.ca
  • Report any illegal activity related to plants and wildlife to 1-877-TIPS-MNR (847-7667).
  • If you’re visiting a beach where Piping Plovers are known to nest, obey all protective measures and signs. Walk near the shoreline rather than the dry sand near the back of the beach (where the birds like to nest), keep pets away, and do not drive off-road vehicles on beaches or dunes. Make sure to clean up after your visit, as leaving garbage or food on the beach can attract predators that may eat eggs and chicks.
  • Volunteer with your local nature club or provincial park to participate in surveys or stewardship work focused on species at risk.
  • Private land owners have a very important role to play in species recovery. You may be eligible for stewardship programs that support the protection and recovery of species at risk and their habitats.
  • As with all wildlife, don’t disturb nests, young or adults. Be respectful and observe from a distance.
  • Bird Studies Canada is working to advance the understanding, appreciation and conservation of wild birds and their habitat in Ontario and elsewhere. For more information on how you can help, visit: www.bsc-eoc.org.

Did you know?

Over the past 50 years, Piping Plovers vanished from almost all known nest sites on the Great Lakes, and were reduced to just a handful of pairs in northern Michigan. However, intensive management and protection in Michigan is succeeding and the young from this location are now helping to repopulate former breeding sites along Ontario’s Great Lakes shorelines.

Did you know?

Within an hour of hatching and drying off, Piping Plover chicks, like other shorebirds, are able to find their own food.

Did you know?

In the spring, a male Piping Plover establishes a territory and attracts a female mate by performing dramatic displays in the air and on the ground. He then scrapes out a shallow nest in the sand and presents it to the female for inspection.

Did you know?

Piping Plover parents share the duty of incubating eggs and caring for their newly hatched nestlings.

The Endangered Species Act

Contact your local ministry office

Often the best source of local information on species at risk is your nearest ministry office. Call with your questions or concerns.