'Pretty exciting': 15 piping plovers added to the population this year

It's been a good year for the piping plover population at P.E.I. National Park. 15 piping plovers released into the wild from P.E.I. National Park this year

Highest number of fledged chicks in 8 years, says Parks Canada

Plovers born at P.E.I. National Park this year have been found as far away as South Carolina. (Submitted by Janette Gallant/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.

A chick is fledged when it reaches 20 days old and can fly on its own and migrate.

"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.

The plovers are banded and monitored so officials can track their whereabouts and migration patterns. (Submitted by Janette Gallant/Parks Canada)

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

Most of the adults — seven pairs, at one point — decided to nest in the Sandspit area of Cavendish. The area was then closed off.

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.

Parks Canada says it's important to protect the tiny birds and their nesting habitats from humans. (Submitted by Janette Gallant/Parks Canada)

"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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Josh Lewis grew up in the Crapaud, P.E.I., area and is a casual web writer for CBC P.E.I. Previously, he spent several years writing for newspapers.

With files from Laura Meader


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