New York Natural Heritage Program
Piping Plover
Charadrius melodus Ord, 1824

Habitat [-]
Piping Plovers nest on open, sparsely-vegetated beaches and sandflats between the primary dune and high tide line (Elliott-Smith and Haig 2004, McIntyre et al. 2010). Vegetative cover is generally less than 20% (Haig 1986). Elias et al. (2000) found that beaches with ephemeral pools and bay tidal flats were higher quality habitat for brood-rearing in New York. Nest sites on Long Island, in one study, occured in less than 50% vegetative cover with most nests occured on bare ground (Cohen et al. 2008). Nests in vegetated cover occured more frequently than expected based on availability (Cohen et al. 2008). A small amount of vegetative cover may protect chicks from exposure to the sun and wind. During winter, Piping Plovers use both coastal and inland beaches, algal bay flats, mudflats, and sandflats, along the Gulf of Mexico, inland bays, and Atlantic coast (Elliott-Smith et al. 2004, Haig and Oring 1985, Johnson and Baldassarre 1988, Nicholls and Baldassarre 1990).

Associated Ecological Communities [-]
  • Brackish interdunal swales
    Temporarily tidally flooded temperate marshes in interdunal swales dominated by salt-tolerant graminoids. Individual swales occur as small patches positioned between fore-, primary and secondary dunes in a maritime dunes system, typically on barrier islands.
  • Brackish meadow
    A moist, moderately well-drained brackish (salinity 0.5-18 ppt) perennial grassland with occasional isolated shrubs that is typically situated in a belt at the upper edge of salt marshes bordering sandy uplands, but may occupy large portions of interdunal basins. The community usually develops in areas with a unique combination of soils and hydrology, on deep deposits of periodically windblown or overwashed gleyed sands that are usually flooded only during spring tides and during major coastal storms, approximately two to three times per year.
  • Coastal salt pond
    A community inhabiting marine shoreline lakes or ponds formed by sandspits that close off a lagoon or bay. The water typically averages brackish or slightly brackish over long periods of time, but may range rapidly from fresh to saline.
  • High salt marsh
    A coastal marsh community that occurs in sheltered areas of the seacoast, in a zone extending from mean high tide up to the limit of spring tides. It is periodically flooded by spring tides and flood tides. High salt marshes typically consist of a mosaic of patches that are mostly dominated by a single graminoid species.
  • Low salt marsh
    A coastal marsh community that occurs in sheltered areas of the seacoast, in a zone extending from mean high tide down to mean sea level or to about 2 m (6 ft) below mean high tide. It is regularly flooded by semidiurnal tides. The mean tidal range of low salt marshes on Long Island is about 80 cm, and they often form in basins with a depth of 1.6 m or greater.
  • Marine rocky intertidal
    A community inhabiting rocky shores that are washed by rough, high-energy ocean waves. Characteristic organisms are attached marine algae, mussels, sea stars, urchins, and barnacles that can withstand the impact of the waves and periodic desiccation. Examples of this community in New York typically have gently sloping rocky shores comprised of boulders (0.25 to 3 m diameter) and/or cobbles (6.4 to 25 cm). Bedrock outcrops may be present in a few examples, but not to the extent or as steep as those described in other New England states, such as Maine. The community is typically rich in species. Attached organisms cover usually more than 60% of the substrate, especially at the lower intertidal zone.
  • Maritime beach
    A community with extremely sparse vegetation that occurs on unstable sand, gravel, or cobble ocean shores above mean high tide, where the shore is modified by storm waves and wind erosion.
  • Maritime dunes
    A community dominated by grasses and low shrubs that occurs on active and stabilized dunes along the Atlantic coast. The composition and structure of the vegetation is variable depending on stability of the dunes, amounts of sand deposition and erosion, and distance from the ocean.
  • Maritime freshwater interdunal swales
    A mosaic of wetlands that occur in low areas between dunes along the Atlantic coast; the low areas (swales) are formed either by blowouts in the dunes that lower the soil surface to groundwater level, or by the seaward extension of dune fields. Water levels fluctuate seasonally and annually. Sedges and herbs are usually the most abundant types of plants. These wetlands may be quite small (less than 0.25 acre).
  • Salt panne
    A shallow depression in a salt marsh where the marsh is poorly drained. Pannes occur in both low and high salt marshes. Pannes in low salt marshes usually lack vegetation, and the substrate is a soft, silty mud. Pannes in a high salt marsh are irregularly flooded by spring tides or flood tides, but the water does not drain into tidal creeks. After a panne has been flooded the standing water evaporates and the salinity of the soil water is raised well above the salinity of sea-water.

Associated Species [-]
  • American Oystercatcher (Haematopus palliatus)
  • Black Skimmer (Rynchops niger)
  • Least Tern (Sterna antillarum)
  • Common Tern (Sterna hirundo)