Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus)
(Federally listed as Endangered)
Description: A small shorebird (similar to a sandpiper) about seven inches in length and height. The coloration on the back is a light gray-brown and the breast and belly are white. A single, black ring wraps around the back and sides of the neck, but does not connect in the front. The legs are yellowish in color and the bill may be solid black or yellow at the base and black at the tip. Piping Plovers feed on insects and small invertebrates that they pick off the surface of the ground.
Habitat: Piping Plovers are found on mudflats, sandy beaches and shallow wetlands with sparse vegetation. They may be found along the margins of lakes and large rivers where there is exposed (bare) sand or mud.
Current and Historic Distribution: The Piping Plover was once widespread on beaches, river sandbars and shorelines along the Atlantic Coast, the Great Lakes and inland rivers in the Midwest and Great Plains. Today it is listed as an endangered species in the Great Lakes and a threatened species across the rest of its range. There are two nesting records for the Piping Plover in the Oklahoma panhandle, but this species is normally a spring and fall migrant through our state. Most records for migrating Piping Plovers occur across the main body of the state; recent records have come from Woodward, Alfalfa, Oklahoma, Cleveland, Tulsa and Washington counties. Spring migration occurs in April and early May; fall migration occurs between the last week of July and late September.
Reasons for Decline: Piping Plover populations have declined in their nesting range as a result of habitat destruction and alteration due to dam construction and channelization projects along rivers and streams, as well as the draining and filling of shallow wetlands. Other threats include human disturbance of nests and nesting beaches, encroachment of vegetation into nesting habitats, predation and increased recreational use of nesting and wintering habitats.