Saturday, February 27, 2010

Color-marked Piping Plovers

 Color-marked Piping Plover / Photo by Ann Maddock

Within the next few weeks, Piping Plovers will start arriving in the Mid-Atlantic states, either to stay and breed or to rest briefly en route to breeding grounds farther north. (Last year, I saw my first of the year on March 14 in New York.) This year, some of the plovers may be marked with colored leg bands as part of a migration study. A Piping Plover with a black flag near the top of its left leg, like the one above, is likely to be part of a population that winters in the Bahamas.
How may a sighting be reported? Simple. Report all sightings to CHERI GRATTO-TREVOR, Prairie and Northern Wildlife Research Centre, Environment Canada, 115 Perimeter Road, Saskatoon, SK S7N 0X4 Canada, EM: , noting the color and location of each band on the bird, and location and behaviour of the bird (on nest, brooding, foraging at migratory stop-over, etc.), as well as presumed sex of the bird, if possible.

What do color bands of The Bahamas plovers look like? They look like the three Bahamas plovers pictured above. All have a black flag on the upper left leg. Each have a single white band on one of the lower legs, right or left. Each have two color bands (neither of which is a white band) on the lower leg opposite the leg with the single white band. Colors used were: red, orange, yellow, white, light green, dark green, dark blue, and black. No metal bands were placed on any of The Bahamas birds; nor were color bands placed on the upper right legs of the birds.
So far only the only previously banded Piping Plover to be resighted belonged to the Great Lakes population. That bird, an adult female, was banded in 2005 on her breeding grounds in Michigan. She has returned to Michigan to nest each year since then but was not recorded elsewhere until she was seen in the Bahamas.

Of the 57 color-marked Piping Plovers that are part of the current study, 50 were observed again within 24 hours of being banded. Many were seen during subsequent weeks, but they will be leaving the Bahamas very soon. These birds could be part of the Great Lakes population, or they could migrate and breed elsewhere. If you notice any Piping Plovers with color bands this year, make sure to record the colors and positions of all the bands and report the sighting.

The Piping Plover is federally listed as endangered in the Great Lakes region and threatened in the Northern Great Plains and Atlantic Coast. While their status has been improving thanks to the recovery program, the species is still vulnerable. More information about where each of the populations migrates and breeds will assist recovery efforts.

More details on the project and how to report sightings, along with additional photos of banded plovers, are available at the Coastal Virginia Wildlife Observatory blog.