Piping plover count up 17 birds on P.E.I. this year

The number of piping plovers on P.E.I. is up slightly this year, according to a census conducted by Island Nature Trust and Parks Canada.

Island Nature Trust and Parks Canada counted 65 of the endangered birds, up from 48 in 2017

Island Nature Trust and Parks Canada counted 65 piping plovers during the first week of June. (Island Nature Trust)

The number of piping plovers on P.E.I. is up slightly this year, according to a census conducted by Island Nature Trust and Parks Canada. 

Each spring, the organizations counts the endangered birds over the course of a week. This year staff counted a total of 65 piping plovers — up from 48 in 2017. That's also the highest number counted since 2011.

"We're not sure exactly why that might be," said Shannon Mader, species at risk coordinator with Island Nature Trust.

Shannon Mader with Island Nature Trust says seeing even a small increase in the piping plover population gives her hope. (Island Nature Trust)

"It may be that the birds just returned a little bit earlier this year and were around during that census window, or it may be in fact and overall increase for this year. Either way, it's exciting for now."

'A little bit of hope'

Piping plovers have been considered endangered or at risk of extinction since 1985, and since the early 1980s, Parks Canada has been working to protect the population in the P.E.I. National Park. This year, of the total 65 birds counted, 15 were counted in the National Park by Parks Canada staff. 

Mader says this year's increase isn't large enough to be considered significant at this point. However she says it's nice to see the numbers go up, even slightly. 

Island Nature Trust found this nest of eggs during the 2018 census. (Island Nature Trust)

​"Particularly for piping plover, we've seen a pretty stark decline on P.E.I. since about 2007, so any time we see numbers moving in the other direction it gives you a little bit of hope," she said.

​"While we haven't seen the rebound in the population that we would like to see, a lot of jurisdictions in the U.S. have seen that rebound using similar measures … so we know it's possible." 

She said Island Nature Trust is concerned about how few chicks hatched on P.E.I. return to the Island each year, however this year staff were able to identify two banded plovers as birds that hatched on P.E.I. last year. 

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With files from Laura Meader