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Piping Plovers Fledge at Island Beach State Park


August 23, 2016

The piping plover pair nesting on the Southern Natural Area beach at Island Beach State Park have successfully fledged two chicks. This was the first ocean side nest in more than 25 years and the first in the park in more than a decade.

Four chicks hatched on July 2 and 3, but as is frequently the case with plovers, one chick was quickly lost to an unknown cause (most likely predation). By July 14, another chick had not been observed for three days and eventually was determined to have been lost. The remaining two did well, however, there was a temporary intervention.

On Saturday, July 23, one of the two remaining chicks was observed with a moderate limp. Since piping plovers (and especially chicks) do not fare particularly well in rehab the preference is always to leave the individual in the wild if possible. However, upon examination two days later when the chicks had leg bands applied, the chick weighed much less than its sibling (20g vs 25g) and the limp was quite pronounced. After four days at Toms River Avian Care the chick was able to rejoin its family brood with no noticeable impact from the injury.

By Thursday, July 28 the chicks' flight feathers were coming in, meaning flight was not far off. By August 6, one of the chicks (the "uninjured" one) was seen taking a short sustained flight, putting it right on schedule for full fledgling. As per federal Endangered Species Act guidelines, piping plover chicks are considered fledged at 35 days old for vehicle management purposes and the temporary vehicle barrier was removed early on Monday, August 8.

The fledging of two chicks from this location is great news for recovery of the federally threatened and state endangered piping plovers in New Jersey. NJDEP Division of Fish and Wildlife biologists hope this is an indication of a rebounding population after population swings witnessed between 2003 and 2014.

Although there was a healthy increase in the statewide population in 2015 to 108 pairs, that increase came on the heels of the lowest statewide breeding population (92 pairs) since intensive statewide monitoring began in the late 1980s. Populations remain well below the peak population of 144 pairs in 2003 and well below the average population (118 pairs) since plovers were federally listed as a threatened species in 1986.

The NJDEP Division of Fish and Wildlife Endangered and Nongame Species Program, the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of NJ and the staff at Island Beach State Park wish to thank the numerous volunteers who contributed to the effort protecting and monitoring the nest and chicks, and the many purchasers of Sport Fishing Vehicle Permits who were unable to utilize the section of beach with their vehicles during the critical nesting period.

Please enjoy the photos linked below, courtesy of volunteer Kevin Knutsen, but please do not reproduce without permission:

Photo 1
Photo 2
Photo 3 (injured/rehabilitated chick)

For information on beach nesting birds in New Jersey visit
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Last Updated: August 23, 2016