Meet Penelope and Pete Penelope
Male pattern is more distinct
Pete Chooses a Territory Barrier Beach – optimal Piping Plover breeding site with all foraging habitats: ocean, mudflats, tide pools, bay
A territory must include good breeding areas - not much vegetation, sandy or a mixture of sand/shells/pebbles
Pete Defends the Territory
Plovers may charge each other, or do parallel running along the edge of their territory.
Pete Tries to Attract Penelope
Courtship flights, dances and nest scraping – creating shallow depressions in the sand, which may be lined with seashells.
Penelope Checks Out Pete’s Work
Pete’s tail fans out as part of his courtship display.
This is a good scrape â€“ you can tell by the number of tracks that Pete and Penelope have visited it a lot and may be planning to make their nest there.
Penelope Accepts Pete as Her Mate
Pete does a high-stepping display and pounds his tiny feet on the ground.
The pattern of these tracks show that this was a courtship display.
Penelope Starts to Lay Eggs
Can you find the egg in this picture? It is very well camouflaged, but not protected from weather, predators or from being crushed underfoot.
The First Nest is Destroyed
If the scrape is not far enough above the high tide line, the egg(s) may get washed away in a high storm tide.
Penelope Makes a New Nest 4 eggs is a full clutch.
Pete and Penelope Incubate the Eggs
Incubation lasts roughly 26 days (4 weeks) – both birds will take turns at incubation.
The Nest Gets Protection
This is where conservationists lend a hand. When the 4-egg nest is found, an exclosure an put around it (like an enclosure, but this is meant to keep things out). This ensures that the eggs aren’t stepped on or eaten, while still allowing the parents to get in and out.
The Eggs Begin to Hatch
Pete and Penelope Have Four Chicks!
Pete Defends Against a Predator This “broken wing” display fools the predator into thinking Pete will be easy prey.
Pete lures the predator away, then flies off to safety.
Penelope Keeps the Chicks Warm
Goodbye to the Nest
The chicks are capable of feeding themselves shortly after they hatch. They are dependant on their parents for warmth and protection from danger.
Destination: Tidal Flats and Creeks The chicks can walk long distances to feed right after hatching, but won’t be able to fly for about a month.
Piping plovers eat mostly worms, insects and other small invertebrates. They find food by running along the edge of the water.
Getting to the Tidal Flats Can Be Challenging
The Chicks Grow Up Quickly
South for the Winter
Photography: Shawn Carey, Ben Carroll, Roger Everett, Mark Faherty, Jim Fenton, John Fuller, Becky Harris, Scott Hecker, Ellen Jedrey, Sasha Keyel, Sidney Maddock, Massachusetts Audubon Society, Shiloh Schulte, Michelle Stantial, John Van de Graaff, Mark Wilson, Kate Wyman, Margo Zdravkovic