By Liz Sheehan |
SEA BRIGHT – Piping plovers, the federally threatened and endangered shorebirds, are enjoying their summer on the borough beachfront.
According to Christina Davis, an environmental specialist with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Fish and Wildlife, 56 pairs of plovers have been tabulated in the area: 42 at Sandy Hook, 10 in Sea Bright and four in Monmouth Beach.
Davis said the borough has the highest number of plovers among municipalities in the state. The town “is off the charts,” she said.
Piping plovers breed only in North America and have been listed as threatened or endangered around the country since December 1985, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website. The plovers are small shorebirds, about 7 inches long, with sand-colored plumage on top and white underneath, sporting black bands around the breast and black markings on the head.
Davis said the male plovers usually arrive first in the area in March and tend to return to the same places yearly if that habitat has not been damaged. More of the birds arrive in late April or May, she said.
The birds remain at their coastal breeding grounds for three to four months a year, laying three to four eggs “in shallow scraped depressions lined with light colored pebbles and shell fragments,” according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website. The eggs are “well camouflaged and blend extremely well with their surroundings.”
To protect the birds, the plovers’ nesting areas are fenced off from the rest of the beach.
Jeff Dement, chief naturalist for the American Littoral Society at Sandy Hook, said the biggest dangers to the survival of the plovers are foxes and humans. He said some of the fences surrounding the birds’ nesting areas have been electrified, but foxes have been observed teaching other foxes how to dig under the electrified fences.
Davis said she did not have an update on how many plovers remained in the area, but a report from the DEP to Sea Bright which was posted on the borough’s website said four chicks and two adults remained in the fenced area of the Sea Bright beach on July 28, north of Shrewsbury Avenue.
Two of the chicks were estimated to fledge – having the feathers necessary for flight and being capable of flying short distances – by July 31, the report said. According to the report, 20 chicks fledged in Sea Bright this year, making the borough a “bright light for the season.”
The plovers leave for their winter quarters anytime from mid-July to October, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website.
Davis said that as the plovers depart, the fences around their nesting areas are rearranged. The plovers from this area fly south to North Carolina to as far south as Florida, the Bahamas or the Gulf Coast for the winter, she said.
This article was first published in the Aug. 17-24, 2017 print edition of The Two River Times.
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