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Two endangered Piping Plovers return to the wild

September 30, 2018

Late this summer, two members of an endangered species were released back into the wild after their rehabilitation at Tri-State Bird Rescue & Research. The rehabilitation and release of two young Piping Plovers was coordinated with New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife personnel who were monitoring sensitive nesting sites. 

The first plover chick arrived in July as a lone, but healthy orphan (which is highly unusual). The second came to Tri-State at the beginning of August, when it was discovered its parents were not actively supporting the chick and its health was compromised. Both unrelated plovers were professionally cared for at Tri-State’s Wild Bird Clinic until they regained their health and strength, and were old enough to take care of themselves in the wild.

The Atlantic Coast population of the Piping Plover is federally listed as threatened along its entire range. According to Christina Davis, an environmental specialist with the Endangered and Nongame Species Program at New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife, “It looks like we had just 96 Piping Plover pairs for the whole state. That is down from our all-time high of 144 pairs in 2003. It is very worrisome because we aren't even totally sure why we are seeing declines. Our productivity (how many chicks fledge each year per pair) has been high enough to suggest that we should have seen increases in the population, especially over the last few years. Instead, we have seen declines.”

Numerous factors play a role in threatening these beach-nesting birds, including intensive coastal development and loss of habitat, sea level rise that leads to habitat flooding, predators such as feral cats, raccoons, fox and gulls that eat the eggs and chicks, and human disturbances that coincide with their nesting season. Because of this wide array of threats, Piping Plovers are one of New Jersey’s most intensely managed species.

For additional information regarding the releases and status of Piping Plovers, contact Emily Heiser at Emily.heiser@conservewildlifenj.org.

The mission of Tri-State Bird Rescue & Research Inc. is to achieve excellence in the rehabilitation of injured, orphaned, and oiled native wild birds, with the goal of returning healthy birds to their natural environment. They do this through compassionate care, humane research, and education. With 40 years of experience, Tri-State is an internationally recognized leader in oil spill response management and training relating to affected wildlife. The organization responds to wildlife affected by oil spills and incidents regionally, across the United States, and around the world. The non-profit also treats nearly 3,000 native wild birds annually in the Frink Center for Wildlife in Newark.