Nova Scotia

Piping plovers have poor reproductive season in Nova Scotia

Piping plovers in the province are beginning their southern migration, something some of us might find appealing during this damp Nova Scotia summer.

Good news is, the endangered bird's chick survival was high

Piping plovers are shown at Kejimkujik Seaside Park in Port Joli. (Submitted by Parks Canada)

Summer is not over yet but Nova Scotia's endangered piping plovers have started their annual southern migration after a rough year in the southwestern part of the province.

"This is one of the years when we didn't have great hatch success," said Sue Abbott, program co-ordinator with Bird Studies Canada.

"The positive is chick survival was really good so hopefully that allows those young that were produced on beaches to come back the following years."

White Point Beach Resort in Liverpool has seen piping plovers nest and produce chicks for the past several years. In 2014, the plover male, EP and his mate, produced four babies — E4, ET, E2  and EL.

The male returned this past summer and produced 4 more.

Some chicks lost to predators

Marketing manager Donna Hatt says they were excited with the new arrivals, but saddened when they were lost to natural predators.

That sadness tempered by good news last week.

"Thanks to our friends at Keji, we learned that E2, our yearling from last year had met up with a mate, in fact had a nest and is the parent of two new babies," she said.

"They're a part of our family now and we follow the story lines and who's had kids, are they growing and are they succeeding in life?"

A banding program started last year by Environment Canada has enabled White Point staff and researchers like Abbott to keep tabs on the area's piping plovers.

Abbott says the little sea birds have natural predators such as foxes, crows and seagulls. In addition, people or dogs off leash may unwittingly disturb nests, although "we don't believe human disturbance was the reason for all of these nests to fail," Abbott said.

Females first to migrate south

While the organization is now collecting data on piping plovers in the rest of the province, the birds themselves are heading for warmer climates like Cuba, Florida and the Caribbean.

"The adults, once they finish nesting, they get on the move particularly the female," Abbott said. "She'll often leave the male to look after the chicks and then start her migration down south."

Plovers, which weigh less than 6 toonies, face a daunting journey as they travel south, dodging predators and sometimes hurricanes.

This is a big census year in the plover's southern wintering grounds and Abbott said her group is looking forward to the information that census will provide.

"We still know surprisingly little about all the spots where plovers spend the winter so this effort helps us answer some of those questions to understand what threats might be affecting them on the wintering grounds," Abbott said.

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