'Pretty exciting': 15 piping plovers added to the population this year
Highest number of fledged chicks in 8 years, says Parks Canada
It's been a good year for the piping plover population at Prince Edward Island National Park.
Fifteen plovers were fledged this year in the park, which is the highest number since 2010, said Parks Canada.
"Putting 15 fledged birds back into the population is pretty exciting for us here," said Kerry-Lynn Atkinson, a resource management officer with Parks Canada.
The park had eight breeding pairs this year — up from an average of six in recent years — and of those, six nested. From those nests, 18 chicks hatched.
There doesn't seem to be any difference in habitat or other factors this year, Atkinson said.
"We just had a good number of productive birds that wanted to come to the park."
Found as far away as South Carolina
The chicks are banded by the federal Environment Department and the Canadian Wildlife Service in order to track where they go.
Three of the tiny birds have been found in North and South Carolina, including one that was first seen in Rhode Island.
Tracking the birds not only shows where they're spending the winter, but whether the same ones are returning to the park to breed.
Most nested in Sandspit area
The plovers already face the threat of predators, weather events and habitat change, Atkinson said, so it's important to keep them away from humans. Domestic animals are also banned from the beaches from April to October.
"They have a lot of important things to overcome on a daily basis without adding tons and tons of people into their nesting habitat," said Atkinson.
She added that keeping the area private allows the plovers to recoup after their voyage to the park, prepare for breeding and establish habitats.
Hatching is the hardest part
The hardest part of trying to add to the plover population is getting the eggs to hatch.
"Plovers will sometimes abandon their nests and we don't understand why. But if it's early in the season, they might have time to re-nest," she said.
"If we can get them to hatch, then we can do a really good job of protecting them and monitoring them and keeping an eye on them to see if they reach that fledging stage."
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With files from Laura Meader