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Spotted in the Bahamas

While just over 60 pairs of Piping Plovers nest in Connecticut, one keeps making herself known.

Piping Plover “Pink Flag 2E” first captured Audubon Connecticut’s attention in the summer of 2017, when she successfully raised three chicks on a Connecticut beach with quite a bit of foot traffic!

This month, Pink Flag 2E was spotted by a National Audubon Society research team in the Bahamas, thanks to the pink identification band around its leg (the official color of the Bahamas and Caribbean)!

“This is truly a conservation success story,” stated Corrie Folsom-O’Keefe, director of conservation for Audubon Connecticut. “The global population of Piping Plovers – which only numbers around 8,000 individuals — is listed as federally and state-threatened. With just over 60 pairs nesting on our Connecticut beaches each year, our conservation efforts are absolutely essential for each and every breeding pair and their chicks.”

Where birds thrive, people prosper. The presence of birds is an important indicator of the health of our environment. Coastal areas are among our unique ecosystems that are highly important for many species of birds, offering breeding sites as well as rich sources of food for migratory stopovers. Unfortunately booming coastal development and recreational use of beaches are rapidly eroding vital habitat for birds and other wildlife. Among the species that are at greatest risk is the Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus)—a small migratory shorebird that breeds on beaches in Connecticut from late March through August.

Thanks to close monitoring and stewardship by an Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds technician this past summer, Pink Flag 2E was able to safely nest, forage for food, and raise its young on our shore – then migrate all the way to the Bahamas for the winter. It was observed with an active nest of four eggs as of early May. All four eggs hatched by June 2nd, and on June 30th, all four chicks were seen flying. This is incredibly unusual for Piping Plovers, who typically lay 3-4 eggs but only fledge 1-2!

Audubon Connecticut’s coastal waterbirds program enlists local volunteers to steward the most important nesting sites for threatened birds like the Piping Plover and American Oystercatcher. By educating beachgoers about the importance of coastal habitat for shore-nesting birds, we are increasing breeding success rates and working to recover declining populations.

Many activities affect the Piping Plover population. Development or invasive plants can reduce the amount of available nesting habitat. People get too close to nests or dogs that chase adults can cause birds to abandon their nests. Predators stress both young and adult birds and will eat chicks or eggs. Beach erosion and tides can also impede their nesting success.

Since major wintering areas for Piping Plovers were discovered in the Bahamas in 2012, it has been Audubon’s goal to identify the most important places for all shorebirds throughout the country and protect them.

Conservation of short and long distance migrant shorebirds requires knowing where the birds are and the habitats they require year-round. Pink Flag 2E has been spotted on the Outer Banks of North Carolina during migration south, at Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

“This March-April, Piping Plovers will return to our Connecticut coastline to nest and raise chicks,” explained Folsom-O’Keefe. “We need the help of our local communities to help them thrive. Some easy steps you can take to start include respecting fenced-off areas where birds are nesting, properly dispose of or carrying out your trash, and keeping dogs off nesting beaches.”

For more information on Audubon Connecticut visit ct.audubon.org

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