Piping Plover

After several minutes, I left the Red Knots and walked further east along the beach, passing more Willets, gulls, and one Forster’s Tern standing along the edge of the surf. Around a long, shallow tidal pool, several Sanderlings and Dunlins were foraging, and with them was a small, pale bird that I can’t help describing as cute and endearing. A Piping Plover.

It was dabbling in the shallow water with one foot, stirring up the water and sand, in search of food. A very pale-sand color and white, with thin orange legs and neat black markings, a Piping Plover almost looks like a charming little ghost in the sand, especially in its paler winter plumage. This one was a very small, plump bird with a round head and a plain, pale face with dark eyes, a small black bill, and a short coal-black forehead band. A single, narrow black band encircled the neck. At the base of its bill I could see just a small spot of orange.

For several minutes I stood still and watched as it scurried to different spots, stirring water in the edges of the tidal pools and running quickly and lightly for short distances, then stopping and pecking at the sand. I never walked closer to it, but several times it came close to me, running up quickly, all around me, maybe just foraging, but it often has seemed to me that Piping Plovers are somewhat curious in their behavior and not too shy.

Piping Plovers are considered threatened or endangered in almost all of their range, mostly because of disturbance from human activity and development of beach habitat, especially in their nesting areas.

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