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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 – 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

A Piping Plover's Summer on the Cape  

Follow 2 piping plovers as they meet, court and raise a family on a Cape Cod beach.