Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Piping Plovers in NJ

Good news - there were 19% more piping plover pairs that nested in New Jersey this year. There were 114 pairs compared with 98 last year with an average of 1.24 young per nest reaching independence.

The 2019 nesting results were reported by the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey and the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife Endangered and Nongame Species Program.

It's good news but not the best possible news. The long-term average is 117 pairs and a peak of 144 in 2003.

Piping plover adult and chick at Cape May

The piping plovers are often the prey of red foxes. The birds build nests in small impressions on beach sand that are open to predation.

State programs to protect the plovers by trapping and killing red foxes in beach towns such as Brigantine and Stone Harbor. Seven Brigantine residents were taken to court and fined by the NJ Department of Environmental Protection for removing traps and taking other actions.

The DEP has tried using nest enclosures for protecting piping plover eggs and hatchlings, but there was a 67% increase in nest abandonment, mostly due to adult mortality at nest enclosures because the mesh enclosures make the plover nests more obvious to predators.

The Holgate and Little Beach units of the Edward B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, and the state’s North Brigantine Natural Area were the most significant nesting areas with 42 pairs (37%).

The federal lands of Gateway National Recreation Area’s Sandy Hook Unit and E.B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge’s Holgate and Little Beach Units maintain 71% of the statewide population.

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