piping plovers

The number of piping plovers has decreased on P.E.I. (Kejimkujik National Park)

Island Nature Trust officials are concerned with the decrease in the number of piping plovers returning to Prince Edward Island.

Volunteers and officials counted only 50 of the tiny endangered shore birds during the annual piping plover census completed between June 1 and 9. 

Program co-ordinator Shannon Mader says the organization was concerned about the low numbers earlier this spring, but were hoping more would arrive as the weather got warmer.

"With so few birds - just over 50 birds - that's the entire provincial population," said Mader. "[The number is] just moving in the wrong direction." 

Island Nature Trust officials and volunteers surveyed 60 beaches, while Parks Canada officials counted the beaches under their jurisdiction.

 In June 2014, they counted 57 plovers. Over a decade ago, in 2003, the census showed 112 piping plovers. 

"It is clear at this point based on banding studies that the chicks that fledge on P.E.I. just don't seem to be coming back," Mader said. 

"We are at a bit of a loss as to what is happening with the chicks and it just really outlines how very important it is that for the birds that we have here, that breed here, that they not face disturbance."

Mader says plovers and their nests face threats from dogs and vehicles on P.E.I. beaches.